...You might be wondering, "What's in Centralia?"...
As of 8/20/07 I had no idea. Nonetheless when Danielle got offered a set there, she hooked me up with one as well, and I took it. It was with some comics I've seen at the underground but haven't met yet. Solomon was going too. This was to be an adventure. I didn't know the people I was going with, where we were going, who the show was for, how much time I was going to do and when I was going up. Bombs away.
We get on the road about 2 hours early. It's a mini-van we're in... we being: Danielle, Solomon, Nick, who's put the show together, Lydia who I've seen at underground, and Shawn who plays guitar and does a bit with Nick. A lot of people don't know each other so the energy is awkward, yet positive. Nick is a hyper lad. Very. Very. Hyper. (those of you who know me realize the weight of this statement) Lydia is intensely going over her set. Shawn is driving. Danielle is keeping Nick entertained. Solomon is chillin'. I'm trying to figure out what the fuck is going on. I ask Nick occasionally and once in awhile I get an answer.
Turns out Nick usurped this show from another person who flaked on it and threw it together last minute. All of us were the last minute. Turns out the show was cancelled until he picked it up; translate: no one will be there. No one knows what order we're going in or how much time we're going to do. Okeedokeeartichokee.
The awkwardness slowly dissapates and we discover that we all get along quite well... this is a good thing. Now the only thing we have to look forward to is Centralia.
Centralia is where meth heads go to retire. It is dead center (hence the clever name) between Portland and Seattle on the I-5 corridor therefore the furthest distance from anything cool to do in between the two cities. Fuck. Not only is this going to be a poorly-advertised-previously-cancelled-show but we'll have an audience of maybe six ex-truckers retiring off of scratch off lottery tickets. Again, fuck.
Fuck that is, until I walked into the Hub City Club. The Hub City Club is a Valhalla of wonder and greatness in the midsts of the cultural abyss. Cameron, who runs the place, is an incredibly young guy who rents the place and sets up rock shows and us for the young people in the area that would otherwise have NOWHERE ELSE TO GO AND NOTHING ELSE TO DO! The Hub City Club is everything I prayed to God for when I was growing up in Medford, Oregon and never got. Now I don't go to church. Coincidence? Hardly. Digression. It's a big hall with lots of space that Cameron has so generously filled with tables (makes the space look more full). There is a lot of reverb so two people applauding sounds huge. This is nice, if, in the case barely anyone shows up, it will feel bigger than it is...
...Which turned out to be the case.
C'est la vie. The show must go on. There are 10 actual audience+5 volunteers that help out there+ us. Let the party begin. Solomon first at bat. His set started strong and was good but the energy was starting to drag and the audience was quiet albeit generous. He did 2o min. Next Lydia. Again good start but low energy response and stuff was getting spotty. Add to the fact that there was so much reverb that sometimes it was hard to understand the comics if they delivered a line fast or under articulated in the least. Lydia did 20 min. Danielle 3rd, good stuff, but lost some punchlines due to crazy reverb. Crowd getting quiet. She did 12 min. I'm up next.
Crowd is really quiet (but still generous and still with us) by this point and I recognize that I gotta pull out some shit to get this going. Fuck it. Full speed ahead and I come out swinging. I open with a joke about the size of the audience ("I haven't seen a crowd like this since my Klansman for gay rights convention.") and follow with giving a huge shout out to how cool the Hub City Club is and how important it is to support it and how cool the kids were that came. Then I went into my set. I did 20 min as well. I think I did (think, because my recorder ran out of batteries in the middle of my set... fucking perfect):
And it went fucking great! It was an incredible feeling knowing that I had them the whole time, that I was in control. They dug most of my bits and I even got a few applause (at some of the darkest bits actually... kids these days) which was awesome. It was probably the best set I've had yet and certainly the best circumstances. To turn a crowd around like that, and do it in a place with a crowd that was so fucking cool in the least likely of towns... yeah, I was on a comedy high. The crowd was primed and Nick came up to finish it out. The crowd responded great to him. He did 2o min and ended it with a song that was a great closer.
We hung out at the club for about an hour, ate pizza and shot the shit with Cameron and some of the people that hung out there. We eventually piled into the van, stocked up on candy and drove home. The car ride home was one of the most fun times I've had in recent memory. We were all on comedy high and went back and forth between cracking each other up and getting deep and heavy about the nature of comedy and art. We all contributed to both ends, but I have to credit Lydia with saying one of the funniest things that made my laugh harder than I have in a long time. Any attempt at replication would yield failure, suffice to say, all the next day at work it would pop into my head at work and I looked like a lunatic constantly stifling a laugh.
Nick is going to keep this a monthly show and I'm fucking into it. If for no other reason to support and be in such an amazing place in the middle of nowhere... not to mention the road trip. Much love to Nick for putting it together and Cameron for having the vision to put that place together.
Lesson: You can control the audience, you don't have to let it control you.
Backup lesson: Always support cool places always.