As Gladys Knight once sang, not necessarily referencing Stephan Wichnewski following our U.S. tour of January/February 1988: L.A. (to say nothing of Phoenix, San Luis Obispo, Albuquerque, Dallas, and Tuscaloosa) proved too much for the man. He started phasing himself out of the operation, playing only those shows that didn’t involve much travel. An already booked midwest tour in April would require either cancellation or a replacement. Our pal Wolf Knapp, late of Antietam, stepped into the breach. It was rough on everybody–in addition to the challenges presented by trying to quickly integrate Wolf into the lineup, there was the emotional aspect of having Stephan quit. It wasn’t even as if we liked him that much, but rejection is rejection. We got off to a rocky start, though things improved over the course of the week. Still, I don’t think anyone was sorry when we got to our last show in Ft. Wayne on this date 26 years ago. We were met out front by the promoter who claimed surprise at seeing us, insisting that he had cancelled the show with our booking agent in favor of the Silos. Dejected, we pointed the station wagon toward Hoboken until Georgia suggested that maybe we should not just take this stranger’s word for it, but actually check with our agent–not an easy task, as it was a Sunday and we didn’t have his home number. We eventually got through to him and he said that the show was most definitely not cancelled, adding “You know about Cleveland?” We said yes, having already been warned that that show, opening for Adrian Belew, was in fact cancelled. Returning to the venue, we encountered the Silos, who were under the impression that we were opening, more evidence that the promoter was trying to pull a fast one. Somehow we convinced the promoter to let us play, and pay us something. While the Silos soundchecked, we went to a diner (where no amount of referring to Italian dressing could keep the waitress from calling it Eye-talian), ate some crappy food, stood at the cash register for five minutes waiting to pay, and finally just walked out, for the first and last time in my life. After the show, we drove all night, and checked in on Monday morning with our agent, who expressed confusion when we said we were calling from home. It turned out that what we should have known about Cleveland was that the show was back on. We missed that one, but did get there seven years ago today, playing the Beachland Ballroom with Times New Viking.
Speaking once more of Cleveland, Matt of Lakewood writes: 4/17/06. As something of a young fan of the band (I’ll be celebrating my 30th birthday this year too!), my memories of it only go back as far as 2004 (I was a ripe 20 years old when I became a college radio fanatic and discovered your great music). So there are fewer memories in my cerebral cortex to pull from (seeing the band perform the near-entirety of I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass at Pitchfork Fest 2006, listening to your CDs on the way to New York for New Year’s Eve 2005, etc.) but I think my favorite is the time I sheepishly plugged a Fender Stratocaster into a Vox AC30 at the North Olmsted (Cleveland suburb) Guitar Center and played the opening riff to “I Heard You Looking” in April of 2006. Struggling to not be heard at Guitar Center may not be a common problem, but my chops have never been anything to brag about, particularly back then. My mediocre six-string skills have developed a bit since that time, and I’ll admit I’ve drawn much inspiration from Ira’s unmistakable style. Maybe a more brash indie-rocker will plug in and turn heads at the chain store in the Year of Our YLT 2014.