Wednesday September 13th, 2000 at The Granada Theatre in Lawrence, KS
The Hillary Step, Strong Ave., & Ativin Grin

The Hillary Step The Hillary Step Strong Ave. Ativin Grin [more]

I bet you didn’t know about this show. In fact I bet that no one knew about this show. After seeing the turn out, I hope no one knew about this show. The Hillary Step didn’t even know who else was on the bill until earlier in the day when they called to make sure the show was still happening. So why was this all secret? I don’t know. The Granada didn’t put up a single flyer around Lawrence or Kansas City; they didn’t even put up flyers in their own club. Sometimes a big club will lose track of who is promoting a show and in the end no one will have promoted it. I think that is what happened here.

I arrived at 8pm with The Hillary Step and the club was completely empty. We wasted an hour playing pool on the club’s horrible tables (with their cues that have no tip) until the other bands arrived and began a very slow set-up process. I’d tell you how long it took but you’d assume it was hyperbole, instead know that as the evening wore on, the club’s soundman explained things were running behind due to the unbearably long set up time of the first two bands’ drummer.

When Ativin Grin did begin, the disappointment was severe. Not only had I sat there waiting for over an hour for them, but the band was completely uninteresting. Musically they fused the worst elements of metal, funk and rock to come up with some amateurish bullshit that not only was ill conceived but executed poorly as well. I’m generally not the guy who delights in destroying bands, but I can’t imagine anyone would enjoy this band, ever. During their set I walked out to my car and got a book to read.

I was excited for Strong Ave.’s set to begin, not because I’m a fan of the band (in fact I had never seen them) but because it meant Ativin Grin wouldn’t be playing any longer. However the band switch was really a case of things going from bad to worse. Strong Ave are metal. Hair metal. Think LA Guns. Their drummer (of course playing from a rack) played a single beat throughout the band’s long set while their guitarist attempted leads he couldn’t play, and the bass player played a single repeated note. Worst of all may have been the singer. How he ended up with the job I’ll never know as his banter between songs was horrible, his lyrics were downright embarrassing, his voice was weak and although he tried to jump around on stage while he sang, it was nothing but awkward.

Before The Hillary Step played their fans had already left. The band didn’t mind, in fact a couple of members of the band wanted to leave as well. Although they did stick around (and eventually play) they vowed not to work with the night’s promoter again. Who could blame them? The place was empty (save the other two bands, and less than a dozen folks drinking at the bar), the bill was horrible, and as you’ll learn later, there wasn’t a dollar for the bands at the end of the night.

They set up quickly (in hopes of tearing down quickly) and began with a few songs from their CD that sounded polished and tight. The followed with two new songs (one that debuted at Spirit Fest a week earlier, another that was just written the night before) which the band played knowing they were essentially at a mic’d practice. The first went over well with it’s straight forward approach and driving picked guitar intro. Brad prefaced the second with "I don’t think I have words for this one yet, but here goes." Ouch! That is never a thing you want to hear from a band on the stage, but I guess they felt they had nothing to loose. It wasn’t far into the song before the drums and guitar got out of sync, Brad’s voice started to go and it all turned a bit painful. Nothing lost though I guess and the band picked up with a few songs from their CD and demo before calling it quits.

Even if the band were disappointed by the evening, their stage presence was professional and commanded the attention of both the pool players and other bands for most of the set (the mathier numbers such as "You and Me and This" confused a few). It’s no wonder the other bands took notice, there were several points in the set where The Hillary Step sounded more succinct than I had heard ever them play with each stop, start, and dynamic change hit perfectly. This only accented the inequities in the night’s bill.

After wrapping everything up as quickly as they could, the band loaded their gear back into their cars parked in the back alley. I went hunting for the promoter who had, of course, already left, leaving me to talk to a bartender about getting the band paid. The bartender first gave me a taxed look then sheepishly told me that the club hadn’t even made enough money to cover the sound man ($150). He then looked around and continued "But since my manager isn’t here so what we’re going to do is give you guys free draws until you’re out." What the hell?! And what the hell does "until you’re out" mean? I thanked the guy but explained that’d only be useful if it wasn’t already after midnight on a week night. I didn’t bother to tell him that no one in the band drinks – I figure after a few more shows like this, they’ll probably start.