Manager’s Winter Tour Journal – On the Road with Formula 5, January – March 2015
By: Pete Mason
After months of planning and sorting of schedules, dozens upon dozens of emails and a fresh look at the intricacies of what it takes to manage a band and get them on the road, Formula 5 embarked on a Winter Tour that began in Syracuse in early January and ended in late March at Brooklyn Bowl. I was there with them on the road for every show, adventure, hiccup, set of music and hilarious moment that transpired in the van, on stage or back stage. Needless to say, this was quite the adventure seeing a young band with a great deal of promise break into new markets. Here’s my recollection of the 14 shows Formula 5 played on their recent Winter Tour.
January 9 – Funk n Waffles Downtown, Syracuse, NY. We rode up in the van in freezing temperatures, packed with 5 of us and all the gear for our first show in Syracuse in a year. It was bitter cold but we had a warm reception at Funk n Waffles. Charley and Sam were awesome to work with and the chicken and waffles were delicious. They have quite a backline and Mike tore up the Hammond until 2am. We got back to Albany around 7am, I think. That part was exhausting to say the least.
January 24 – The Java Barn, Canton, NY. I lived all my life in New York and never visited Canton. It took 4+ hours to get there amid the coldest weather yet, but the warm reception from the Saint Lawrence students who run The Java Barn was impressive. The Green Room was donated by, among others, Grace Potter, a SLU alum. The band played two powerhouse sets, including a cover of “Get Lucky” worked into the second set and had a lively crowd that packed the place throughout the night, start to finish. We had hotel rooms that night and the guys felt like rock stars. I felt happy just to have a bed to sleep in for a few hours before heading back to Albany.
January 27 – Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY. The show was postponed because of a storm. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
January 30 – Nietzsche’s, Buffalo, NY. Funktional Flow opened, Buffalo.fm stopped by to record video and I experienced this fabled dive of a venue for the first time. Friends BB and Craig stopped by and pointed out where Phish signed the ceiling in 1991. I crashed at BB’s instead of with the band, which led to….
January 31 – The Dock, Ithaca, NY. I slept in and instead of caravanning with the guys to Ithaca, I rode solo. The extra sleep was worth it. I arrived at Ithaca College for the band’s interview on WICB’s Homebrew with DJ Wintercould and Don. We hit Jack’s Grill for dinner (great chicken sandwiches) and then drove to The Dock. Huge venue, great staff, small crowd but some incredible improv when Ben Whalen from Funktional Flow joined the guys for a couple songs. A bitter cold drive back ensued and we were home around dawn.
February 5 – Arch Street Tavern, Hartford, CT. The first night of a month long residency at Arch Street. Great venue, awesome food, good beer, Hartford Tom behind the bar. Big Mean Sound Machine headlined the night. Good turnout, made me hope for a strong month of shows.
February 6 – Bacchus, New Paltz, NY. This winter just kept getting colder. We spent 20 minutes chipping away at ice just to get the door open so we could load gear into the venue. The band setup in a compact space, The Other Brothers opened with great soul. I had taco pizza for dinner. It was delicious.
February 12 – Arch Street Tavern, Hartford, CT. Not the best turnout this night but the performance from the band was top notch. Half the live album we are releasing on April 18 was recorded this night. Instantly the “Uh-Oh, Love Comes to Town” -> “Mister Elixir” jumped out as live album material. I am so glad it made the cut, as well as “The Clear” -> “Excalibur”
February 13 – The Waterhole, Saranac Lake, NY. Have I mentioned this winter was cold? Naturally we played a -25’ night (before wind chill) during Winter Carnival in Saranac Lake. First time visiting The Waterhole and it was a treat. Moon Hooch headlined and man they pack a punch. The crowd was well sauced and enjoyed the show greatly. I slept upstairs in the apartment above the venue because I too got sauced. It was worth it. Driving home during this bitter weather was only bearable during the daytime.
February 26 – Arch Street Tavern, Hartford, CT. Final night of the residency. Turned out to be the best night. My friend from college, Ken, stopped by the show, and promptly asked me “What does Legolas play?”, referring to bassist James Woods.. The nickname stuck. Airloom opened, their first ever show. Residency was a success.
February 28 – The Monopole, Plattsburgh, NY. Another first time venue for me, but with a hiccup – I got pulled over on the way up there with my friend Chris in the car with me. I should have taken Greg’s advice and gone in the van. Instead, two tickets later, we arrived after load-in at Monopole. Those stairs going up… oy. I don’t know how bands have done this for years. I stopped by my friend Schultzy’s place for a bit and after hanging with him and his friends, I offered to put them on the list at the Monopole. Silence… then, “Um, Pete, there’s never a cover at The Monopole, all shows are free.” I had no idea. This was hilarious, but at the same time, if you want to get on the list at The Monopole, hit me up.
March 13 – Penuche’s on Hanover, Portsmouth, NH. A long drive made easier by catching up on work while Greg drove up in his car. The venue was great, good food and drink and a captive audience via opener Fat Aztec. Mike called the audible and they played Rage Against the Machine’s “Know Your Enemy” for the encore, which caught everyone off guard, myself included. We ended up at a house party until 430am and took the van back, getting home around 8am, I think. Such a long day.
March 21 – Putnam Den, Saratoga Springs, NY. Our first hometown show since December, hometown being a relative term since the band members live in Albany, Clifton Park and Lake George, with Saratoga smack dab in the middle. The Other Brothers and Capital Zen joined us to open the show and we packed the place. It was such a reassuring show to know that we came back home from so many shows on the road and had a stellar turn out. The guys played until past 2am and kept the audience partying late. One of the best shows of the tour at that point.
March 28 – Stella Blues, New Haven, CT. I’ve heard of this venue for years and it was great to finally see a show there, let alone a Formula 5 show. All over the walls were posters from previous bands who had played the room, a great feature of any club. We opened for Rizzo’s Dilemma with a strong set, including an obligatory “The Music Never Stopped” for a venue named for a Grateful Dead song. During Rizzo’s set the guys walked around like gods among men http://www.theonion.com/articles/members-of-opening-band-walking-among-crowd-during,33398 with miles of smiles among them. We ended up at a house party until almost 4am and got to sleep around 5am at Greg’s friend’s house in Norwalk.
March 29 – Brooklyn Bowl, Brooklyn, NY. Waking up at 9am with adrenaline pumping, we were on the move to the City around Noon and arrived at our biggest venue yet at 2pm. From load-in through the end of their set, the band was slightly chilled, a little humbled and as professional as I had ever seen them. After soundcheck we wandered Brooklyn for a bit to get pizza, chilled in the Green Room and met Elise Testone (American Idol) and Natalie Cressman (Trey Anastasio Band) to discuss their sit-in later that night. After dinner we bowled for an hour and a half with fans and friends, with Tweed on the adjoining lane. Sunflower and the Seeds put on an incredible set to start the night, including two sit-ins from Natalie, notably “Eminence Front”. I can’t wait for these guys to get up to Albany later this year. Tweed had some sick jamtronica in a 4-song set, and then it was Formula 5’s turn. The sit-in with Elise and Natalie on “Trampled Underfoot” could not have gone better! “Pedro”->”Safety Dance” was quite the highlight for me. We packed up and were out of there before 1230am, home by 4am and asleep by 430am. I slept about 12 hours out of necessity while the guys went back to their day jobs.
Overall, Formula 5 played 14 shows in 3 months, including our first show at Brooklyn Bowl. With a tour schedule like this and summer festivals coming up soon, the future couldn’t be brighter for these guys and I look forward to being along for the ride.
Amid all this, the band mixed, mastered and produced their first live album, Live Five, Vol. 1, which will be released on April 18 at The Hollow in Albany. It’s been a long time in the making for this album and Formula 5 is heating up at the right time. Don’t miss this show and make sure to pick up the album on formula5music.com starting April 13.