The Bigelf Progressive Nation Tour Report: Breaking Gear, Cheers and Beers
Ace Mark from Bigelf is currently on the road with the Progressive Nation 2009 tour with Dream Theater, Zappa Plays Zappa and Scale The Summit. He hates people who write about themselves in the third person.
Asbury Park, N.J.
After a well-needed, relaxing day off in New Jersey, it was time to drive to the Convention Hall by the beach. On the way there we were double-parked while grabbing some food for the road, and these cops had us stand outside the bus while they were searching it from the floor to the ceiling. Of course they found nothing. Anyway, the weather in Asbury Park was great for a little bit of tanning and swimming. Of course we did none of that. After 90 minutes of trial and error, I had to admit that there was no way to buy cigarettes on the Boardwalk. They had lighters, though … somebody please tell me why!?! Well, after all I managed to purchase a pack for $9(!) at Wonder Bar. Oh well.
Nevertheless, the load-in, line check and pre-production of the show went really smoothly. Every one the bands and the tour crew seems to be extremely cool and professional (well, there was that one night when Bigelf almost missed a show in Virginia for being late). Anyway, after the show we all went to Stone Pony, where Bruce Springsteen (among others) started his career. Their head of security, Tommy, took a really good care of us. Almost too good actually — had a headache the next morning. Thanks Stone Pony, thanks Tommy!
The drive to Brookhaven was a short one, but somehow we got lost on those New York roads and managed to spend seven hours for the trip. Everyone was dirty, tired, hungry and pissed off when we finally got there. The local catering was possibly the worst so far. And of course, we found out there were no showers available, either. On top of everything, no alcohol was sold or allowed at the venue.
After showing up late, we did a quick load-in and a line check, and it was actually sounding pretty good. Plus the amphitheater was really cool. The show itself went really well, the crowd was extremely cool and really into it. This wasn’t so bad after all. After the show, we did the normal singing session and at the merchandise desk, watched [Zappa Plays Zappa's] set and went to get beers, just to get things back to normal.
Yes babies, Ace is ‘Back In the New York Groove.’ The Big Apple. This time we were well on time. Actually way too early, which is totally unheard of in the Bigelf camp. Parking and loading into the Beacon Theater is kind of a drag, but thanks to the local crew and our own guys, we made it. The interior at the Beacon was redone a few years ago, and I have to say it both looks and sounds fantastic. In the beginning of the show there was almost nobody there, but as soon as we started playing the hall filled up nicely. People were really into it, and we played one the best shows in the tour so far. Mike Portnoy from Dream Theater come onstage for the jam part in ‘Blackball,’ and the crowd just went completely ape s—, giving us a standing ovation in the end. After the show, it was time to hit the bars once again with the Dweezil Zappa band and crew before returning to the venue to see Dweezil play ’3rd Stone From the Sun’ with Dream Theater. Awesome night, and an awesome city.
Quebec City, Quebec
A 10-or-so-hour drive to Canada, the customs, cleaning up the bus, etc. Ah the road, the glamour, the excitement … Or as our friend Scott Tracy would say, “Show business baby!” Well, you do what you gotta do. Crossing the border took a couple of hours, but went without any trouble though. Today we were dealing with the authorities again. This time the cops didn’t search the bus though, they just wanted signed posters! I guess you never can tell, can you?
The Agora is a beautiful, outdoor amphitheater in by the water. The show was really good, the audience was amazing and gave us a standing ovation. After the gig, we went out to explore the Quebec nightlife with Zappa’s band. Good times. When we got back, we found out that the bus had left without us, and none of us had phones on them because of the roaming fees. Thanks to Billy for making some phone calls and arranging a taxi for us! Phew.
The Bell Center is a huge arena, and amazingly it sounds awesome too. The crowd was very welcoming from the very start, and the band sounded good. During the show, Mike Portnoy came out to play ‘Blackball’ once again, and people just went nuts! All in all, a great show. After the signing at the merch desk it was time to hit the bars. We started off with beers and Jäger shots in a pub called Madhatter (of course!), and hit a pub called Ziggy’s just around the corner for some some beers and Jäger shots. After that, we went somewhere and had even more beers and Jäger shots. From then on it’s all a big blur. I wasted all my money, but it was worth it. That’s what people tell me, anyway.
Toronto, Ontario! I love this city, half of my family lives there. After a few hours of riding on the bus, we got to the hotel, took showers and went to the city center to explore. The West Inn Harbour Castle bar was a trip, a cool scenic restaurant on the top floor of the tower. Once again, we hit the bars with Billy and Pete from Zappa’s band and went to the Hideout and the Horseshoe Tavern, of which I have fond memories from my previous trips.
The next day we played the Molson Amphitheter, which was full of welcoming crowds. Not one of the best shows on the tour (technical difficulties), but nevertheless the audience was really into it. Mike Portnoy sang ‘Bobby Brown’ with Dweezil, and Dream Theater covered ‘Camera Eye’ by Rush as an encore. After the show, it was time to return to the Hideout, a cool bar with live music and reasonably priced drinks.