where the writers are
The Lantern

The Lantern in Blacksburg is a basement rock club right next to the campus of Virginia Tech. The expansive stage features a circular DJ booth and a giant blackboard that has been signed by all the bands who played there, plus some friends, well wishers, and probably anybody who had enough courage to ask for chalk. The food is good and the prices are unbelievable. Doco played there on July 18th. That night there was a competing show by a Blacksburg band that is about to break up, which siphoned off most of the crowd we usually draw. Some dreadlocked white guys came in at the end of the dinner hour, but they were just warming up for the house party. Most of the people who showed up stayed through our first hour set, and they clapped and yelled as enthusiastically as some crowds twice their size whom we have foisted ourselves upon, but the overall turnout was less than we expected.

That didn't stop the owners, who both work in the bar, from making sure the sound mix was professional quality. I know because I record most of our shows, and this one turned out just as evenly balanced and beautifully calibrated as the much bigger venues we play, like The Cat's Cradle and The Lincoln Theatre. Considering the place had only been open for a week, this was a remarkable accomplishment. They also let us stay after closing, and told stories about the first week of bustling kitchen trade and rowdy hardcore shows. I got the impression that they were doing it because they love the music business, even if they have to stop people from stage diving now because they are liable to get sued if anyone hurts themselves. Then Dan, one of the owners, offered to let us sleep on his floor, which was brilliant, because we didn't have anywhere else to go.

We sat on the floor and drank gin and tonics and watched Superbad late into the night, becoming less talkative and less coherent by turns until suddenly it was noon. So we asked where we could get some breakfast, and they told us about a cajun place called Boudreaux's that served mostly eggs and wild caught seafood. I had a perfectly cooked omlette with crab, pineapple, roasted red peppers, cheese, and onions. Then we returned to The Lantern to break down our gear and pack it for the journey ahead. Brian, the other owner, even gave us bottled water for the road, or for the hangover, or just because he was a good guy. I'm not going to lie to you, the music business is nasty. But not all club owners are greedy evil-minded swine, and some are actually good people. And its better to dwell on good experiences than bad. Those are the memories that keep me going, anyway.