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Opening For Carpenter Brut

This is the story of the most important night of my music career. The night I opened for CARPENTER BRUT.

This whole thing started as a stupid idea in the shower (That’s where I have my stupidest ideas). After chastising Bram Van Cauter (Of Night Stalker fame) for even considering not playing the show when he was asked to open for Carpenter Brut, I figured it was fairly hypocritical of me to not try to do the same thing.

I had literally nothing worked out on how to play a show. I hadn’t even played some of these parts in two years. But I sent off a message (several messages, actually) to the show promoters and started trying to figure things out. It took them three or four days to get back to me, but by the time they said yes, I was already started down the path of getting a live setup going.

I won’t get into the the super technical details (feel free to ask, if you care) but to put on the show how I wanted, I needed to buy some gear and figure some things out. Making music for a record and making electronic music work live are two very different things. Mushing the former into the latter…well, that took a good bit of work.

Several practices and a lot of hand-wringing later, the day of the show arrived. I used a vacation day so I could give my full attention to prepping the show. I’m really glad I did, cause I still had to pull all the merch stuff together.

The final signage turned out quite nicely:


So that evening I arrive at the venue, and I can’t figure out where to park. Lo and behold, there’s a long haired gentlemen wearing a Carpenter Brut hoodie standing around, so I ask him, he respond in a VERY French accent. So now I’m SURE he’s with the CB crew.

I walk into the building, and it’s a beehive of activity. Bartenders are cleaning glasses, a lights crew is setting up a massive projector for Carpenter Brut, and I have no idea who to talk to.

I grab someone and say “I’m Vampire Step-Dad?” as if I wasn’t 100% sure of that fact. This is when things get very surreal.

A little backstory: My history is in punk and metal. I’ve been in one band or another for the past 20 years. Small bands, not much success. When you’re playing shows in a band like this, half the time the fact that you even exist seems to be an annoyance to people that run venues. Communications tend to be short and lacking information. They tell you to get to a venue 4 hours early, because they have so many bands that show up late, and then when you DO show up at their specified time, they’re annoyed because they weren’t ready for you yet. (“I didn’t expect anyone for another couple of hours.”) You load in, set up your gear, the sound guy who looks just out of high school gives you a half-assed soundcheck, full of sighs and sarcastic comments like “Is that how you want your guitar to sound?” Then, you play your heart out, and at the end of the night, the promoter disappears and you don’t get paid, or you DO find them, and they have some excuse about how they can’t afford to pay you tonight. (Long story short, support local music, kids!)

But that’s not how things played out at Terminal West. Oh no. This is a REAL venue. As soon as I told them who I was, there were two people out at my car, helping me unload things. They made several trips. They even brought in my merch box. This was unlike anything I’d ever seen. I’m used to not even having a door held for me. This was unheard of. They even asked if I needed a table for my merch and provided a table cloth for me. What kind of crazy alternate universe had I been sucked into?

When they mentioned that they would be feeding me too, I said, “Um…you know I’m the local act, right?” Didn’t phase him one bit. “We aim to please” he said with a smile.

The net effect of all this was to actually make me feel more like I had no business being there. “Impostor Syndrome”, they call it. The fear that people will figure out you have no idea what you’re doing. That was me.

So we started getting set up on stage and I realized I’d made a stupid mistake and forgotten EIGHT cables. That was the first and only time I saw the production manager drop the “we aim to please” facade and look like “This guy is an idiot.” Now I felt much more at home.

Nonetheless, they continued to do amazing work and in no time I was hearing my music louder than I’d ever heard it before. Hearing my bass parts come out of a 24 inch speaker was a dream I didn’t know I even had. Let me tell you, when you hit a note on a keyboard, and you feel it in your chest…that’s a powerful feeling.

Once we were all set up, Steve and I played through a couple tunes and that led into the worst part of the night.

The Waiting.

With all the instruments set up, the merch table ready, my friends ready to film, I suddenly had nothing to do except wait. And think. About how everything could go wrong.

So that was real healthy.

I tried to eat something, but after a single bite I realized it would be better to not have anything on my stomach to throw up. Better to dry heave before the set than blow chunks on my nice sweater.

So I spent the rest of the time pacing around, seeing other people look at me with an expression that was a mix of “are you excited?” and “are you about to die?” At the time, the answer seemed to be a resounding “YES” to both.

I’d love to give you a moment by moment recount of the actual performance, but to be honest, I barely remember anything that happened on stage. My brain was in overdrive trying to not mess up (which it failed at) to bother storing much of anything in my memory.

I remember thinking that the real, live cymbals sounded really good, and Steve was smart to suggest using those. I remember messing up the guitar part several times because of nervous energy (You’ll get to enjoy plenty of that in the video!) I remember the time between each song feeling like an absolute eternity. I remember people cheering during the last synth solo of Green Berets for Breakfast, so that was AWESOME.

But that’s about it! The entirety of my memory of the most important show of my music career fits in a small paragraph. Good going, brain.

Once the set was finished, I scrambled to get everything off stage as fast as possible. Felt like everyone was looking at me, judging me. More than likely they were just looking at the person they were talking to. I always forget I’m not the most interesting thing in the room. But I threw everything back stage and ran into a very tired looking Street Fever. He’d just gotten off a plane 1 hour earlier. Made it just in time for his set. That’s commitment.

After I got my stuff cleaned up I hung out behind the merch booth and got to meet a bunch of very cool people. Many new faces, a few people I knew from Twitter that I got to meet for the first time. To my surprise, two people approached me about playing more shows.

Carpenter Brut played an amazing set, looking like a synth god up there on his keyboards. I was deeply inspired and pretty much decided right then that VSD Live needed to happen a lot more than once.

Later, after everyone had left, we’d gotten all packed up, and the place was closing down, I ran into SeƱor Brut himself. I wanted to say thanks for the music, you inspired VSD into existence, etc. But at the same time, I didn’t want to sound like an insane person. Instead, I just sorta stood there and made noises from my face. None of them words, mind you. I looked like a frustrated man who’d just realized he doesn’t speak any languages at all. I stopped. Apologized, and said “Thanks, you’re the reason Vampire Step-Dad exists. I’ll leave you alone now.” He gave me an awkward thumbs up.

You know, I hate celebrity culture and all that, but I am a total insane person when it comes to meeting anyone remotely known. I’m not saying I jump up and down squealing. No, I’m more of the guy who will float around the edges, trying not to make eye contact, while being completely aware of where the person is located at all times.

I am an idiot, in short.

But that’s OK. I may have made a fool of myself in front of someone I respect deeply, but evidently I came off well in front of a few hundred people, and I got to share my music with them and grow the family.

So that’s my story. One of the biggest nights of my life. Not really sure how to wrap that up.

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If you’d like to see my very first show in glorious streaming HD video, you can find that on my YouTube channel, here: