It’s two in the afternoon when we hop into the SIRSY van at the Park and Ride lot for Thruway Exit 34A. The band is less than halfway to work, only 170 more miles to go, to get to an opening slot at Niagara University. SIRSY headlined a big show at Revolution Hall in Troy last night, Halloween night, with costumes and candy and all that such entails. So their night ended some time this morning. A few hours of sleep later and the van was loaded and rolling towards Buffalo. It’s a beautiful, sun shining, first day of November and we’re going to be in the van for most of the rest of it.
Oh, and there is another gig on the calendar tonight, too, after the Niagara gig. Very soon after the Niagara gig, ninety miles away in Rochester. That’s what we’re here for – volunteer roadies, extra hands, “Donkey!” as Rich tags us when we are hauling gear. We have to load in the Niagara show, load out the Niagara show, load in the Rochester show, and load out the Rochester show. In between there is just a lot of time on the road.
What is that guy looking at? I keep getting weird looks from cars we pass. That guy, too. The SIRSY van is vanilla, no murals or airbrushing or adornment. You wouldn’t guess it was a band van until you saw the amount of rock and roll equipment that comes out of it at a load in. I’m not sure what is catching the eye of every driver we pass. Then I realize that we are passing everybody. Nobody is passing us. I peek at the speedometer and then dismiss the reading as a trick of the light or just the angle of my view. So that’s what they are looking at – a white blur going by, fast.
There is junk food passed around but also a bag for recycling; responsible rockers these SIRSY people. We’re all still laughing about the night before, the costumes, the contest, the characters. Melanie is on vocal rest for the day. She communicates via whiteboard, a technique that shapes the rhythm of the conversation as we pause to read and respond to her handwriting. There’s always a lot of laughing in the van. “Ha!” and “:)” from the whiteboard.
Rich fiddles with the GPS although it provides value mostly at the ends of each leg of this trip – hard to get lost on the Thruway. He announces that there is a lake nearby. We look out the window – passengers get one to share – and there is no lake. He is talking about Lake Ontario, miles over the horizon, but visible to him on the GPS map.
The Niagara University show is a big deal with a national recording act, a huge stage and PA (and eventually thousands of screaming girls). If only we could figure out where to load in. Rich makes an executive decision and drives around the building. On the sidewalk. Always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.
No rock show starts when advertised and we are set up with time to spare. When nature calls I leave the gym to locate a bathroom and am assured by an over abundance of student volunteers that I do not need a wristband to get back in since I am “with the band”. Now if someone would have told the security guards. They have to walk me hip and shoulder all the way to the door to get clearance from an 18 year old to let me back in. It is a strange security hierarchy but I get inside as the lights go down.
We all know the plan – a five song set, load the van and roll. We will be late to Rochester no matter when we leave but we can control how late we will be. The crowd is great, the sound is great and, well, the band plays a great set.
At the end of the set Melanie returns to the merchandise table to help sell the band. We go in to donkey mode and haul everything that doesn’t move off the stage towards the van. In the bustle Rich yells across the stage to me, “Chet!” and when I look up, “Hey, how old are you?” My advanced age and Rich’s propensity for introducing me as his father has led some to call me “PAPA SIRSY”. Now here amongst the teen-to-twenty crowd I have a feeling he is digging at me again.
“How old are you?” He’s grinning ear to ear.
“Did you ever think you’d be doing this at 44?”
And then we’re off to Rochester. We recap the short set with Mel and Rich and it turns out they had a blast playing the big stage with great sound and a good crowd. We ride on fumes the last couple of miles to the venue. We’re late but we don’t know how late. An unscheduled change in the line up – four bands tonight – and bad information from the promoters – pushes SIRSY to a spot on the bill they could never make from Niagara. When we bust in the back door there are a lot of people waiting for a band to show up. So we haul ass to load in and set up. SIRSY starts as soon as everything is plugged in and turned on.
After the set Melanie connects with the sound guy, a little professional networking that never hurts. We load out while the next band loads in and then the waiting starts. Waiting for the next band to wrap up. To be polite. To not march out during their set. Like them or not, three gigs in twenty four hours or not, we wait.
Dinner tonight/this morning is scrounged from the available fare at a mini market and a Dunkin Donuts near the club. It’s not good but it’s just fuel at this point. The van is gassed and we roll back onto the highway. Back on the Thruway, miles and miles of Interstate leading us home. Eventually it’s quieter, there is some head nodding.
“There is a lake to the left,” Rich announces for the tenth time this trip. “There is no f-ing lake!” which just makes him laugh.
It’s three in the morning – or is it two? – when we hop out of the SIRSY van at the Park and Ride lot for Thruway Exit 34A. (The time changed while we were gone.) The band is more than half way home, only 140 more miles to go. They played three shows in two days and had a 600 mile commute. On the short ride home I think about what Rich asked me. No, I never dreamed I’d be doing this at 44. But I sure am enjoying the ride.
Originally published on timesunion.com, December 1, 2009 (https://blog.timesunion.com/sirsy/on-the-road-with-sirsy-3-enjoying-the-ride/507/)