Over the last 15 plus years, I was in the rare position not only to get to see some amazing shows at Mohawk Place but I also got to book/promote a lot of them and - more than a few times – even got to play on some magical nights with my old band Semi-Tough.
One time where all of that came together was in August 2, 2006.
At the time myself and my best friend/bandmate/Mohawk manager Erik “Spicoli” Roesser pretty obsessed with Brooklyn via Minneapolis band The Hold Steady. And for good reason: their second album Separation Sunday had come out the year prior and blew everyone away mostly on the back on Craig Finn’s rapid fire lyrical assault imbedded with wit, imagery, and gift for storycraft along with Tad Kubler’s muscular riffage. Tracks were starting to surface for their next album Boys and Girls in America and it seemed destined to have that same greatness.
So, I was doing the legwork to get a lot of shows at Mohawk but FINALLY landing The Hold Steady to headline in Buffalo was really thanks to former Mohawk booker/manager/bartender Bill Nehill. He got the call from the band’s agent and jumped at the chance to nail a date, I think partly because he knew Spicoli and I would lose our minds. And we did. So we had a show with Hold Steady on a weeknight in early August.
It would be a hot show in more ways than one.
You can bet that in Buffalo, NY August is going to be the hottest month of the year. The temperature that day had climbed above the ninety-degree mark. Of course, Mohawk never had air-conditioning. Oh boy!
Our friends the Exit Strategy opened and with the sun still in the sky and better than a hundred twenty people already in the room, it was pretty unbearably hot. There was no amount of cheap beer that could cool you down, but we still tried that method.
I don’t remember much about our :30 minute Semi-Tough set, but I recall figuring that if it was still in the high 80s outside, then the inside the club it had to be ten degrees higher than that. So standing on the elevated stage with the heat rising up in the club and the lights on us, it was triple digits up there. I sweated until my shirt was soaked and we played pretty loud.
I had corresponded with Craig Finn a bit because I had picked Separation Sunday as album of the year in 2005 for Artvoice, so he knew me from that. After the show, he smiled and told me that the band was a lot less “art” than he was expecting.
And the Hold Steady? Mind-blowing, of course. They just had so much power. Finn commanded the stage, like a deranged, ranting ringmaster. That tiny little stage in that little box of a showroom felt like an arena. It was one of those days that I think that almost inspired me out of being in band. I knew I could try and try and give up everything else in my life and never do it a fraction as good as they did.
Another great surprise that night was when my friend Ryan Besch – a great artist, designer, and bassist of Roger Bryan and the Orphans – showed up with a silkscreen poster he did for the gig. It was partly as an early birthday gift for me but also something he wanted to document. I still grin whenever I look at it.
P.S. – I am proud of most of the shows I was able to do at Mohawk and bands I got to work with. Just rattling off the list of other favorites: John Cale, Link Wray, My Morning Jacket, Broken Social Scene/Metric, Sam Roberts, Marah, Grand Champeen, Two Cow Garage, OFF!, Mike Watt and so many more. I also can never say enough about Marty Boratin and all the work and passion he put in to book and deliver so many great Mohawk shows for so many years.