Guest Columns



justin foley op-ed

Our number one homie Justin Foley is just completed a mini-tour with his band, The Austerity Program, and graciously offered to do a tour blog for us. We can never say “no” to Justin and wouldn’t much want to anyway, so we agreed! You can read his account of days one and two of the mini-trek here, day three here and day four here; the fifth and final day is below… enjoy!

Saturday, May 21, 2011
New York City

Back at home after the whole thing is over.  Here’s one of the many things that no one ever tells you about when you think that you want to be in a band: some time not too long after going out on some sort of tour, you should set aside a few hours with a bucket and a bunch of rags and then just wipe all of your equipment down.  I spent the better part of Saturday afternoon doing just that and boy, the water in that bucket gets nasty quick.  What lives on the floors of these clubs that we go see bands in?  What calls those puddles of stale beer its home?  What foul creature sneaks into venues late at night and hides stage monitors deep in its own crevices, so that they are bathed in the funk of the undead?  Well, the amps are clean anyway.  Sitting back in the practice space, ready to make more music.

I figured I’d take the last of these entries to talk about the best case scenario for playing a show.  Thursday night is a good enough example of that. We were third out of four.

About ½ way through the band before us (Deleted Arrows, who I liked a lot) I become overwhelmingly distracted.  There’s a familiar restlessness that starts tugging at my attention a few hours before we play that becomes unavoidable at some point.  But since there’s someone who’s playing,  the best that I can do is distract myself.  So I restlessly walk outside and begin to stretch.  There’s a few smokers and their friends outside in the cooler mist of the night; some muffled sounds of the band playing inside leaks out.  I try to concentrate on breathing; weird details start catching my eye.  I try to do some quick exercises and just wish this empty part of the night was over.

Back inside.  Bump past the person running the door for the fifth time in twenty minutes – she must think I’m nuts.  Glass of water.  Is this their last song?  I pace around the back end of the crowd and catch Thad’s eye – he’s just watching a show and probably stopped wondering what my problem was a long time ago.  Eye the door – maybe I should go back outside.  Stand.  Make note of the exit signs for no reason.  Try to focus on the band, tapping rhythm of with an itchy left foot.

And then they are done and the lights come up and we can move.  We were able to set up mostly all of our stuff earlier so there’s no need to be plugging stuff in while other band is breaking down.  By the fifth night in a row, the mechanics of this are solid and we just glide things into place.  Over to the amps, pick up the instrument, grab a pick.  I play a heavy guitar and feel settled when I finally put it on and hear the first notes come ringing out of the amplifier.  The litany of preparation tasks to get to this point – drive to a city, get the stuff out, find a place to park, etc. – is finally at the end and in a moment we’ll begin to play our songs.

Tune.  Look around, look at Thad.  Ready?  Ready.  Hit go on the drum machine.  Deep breath.

On any given night, what happens next can be any number of things.  It is a good night, though, and soon the effort of actually playing the songs – hitting the right notes, timing things well, nailing cues and changes – disappears.  There’s enough feedback from people there that you can see it connecting with at least some people.  The sound is clear and familiar; I’m not wondering why I can’t hear Thad or how come this guitar sounds like a midrange disaster?  There’s nothing standing in the way.

And if it’s a really good night (like Thursday), this thing happens.  At different points in the songs, everything becomes extremely plain and simple.  There is just that song and what’s happening in it right then.  If it’s a part of anger, then it’s just feeling that anger.  If it’s a part of power, then it’s just that power.  In that moment I am totally immersed.  I am playing it, singing it, sweating it, throwing myself around in it, thinking it.  We wrote it, practiced it, recorded it, packed a bunch of stuff up to go somewhere to play it, are lucky enough to have other come out to see it so that this moment could be there.

And, really, that this has to be why we play the kind of music that we play.  Because if you’re going to be that headlong into something, you might as well have it be loud as fuck and make you scream your way through it, right?  If there are moments in music that put you into this state of transcendence, it might as well be total.  Don’t play the instrument – pound it.  Don’t nod your head with a satisfied expression – whip it back and forth.  I have no doubt that those who coax subtle sounds from delicate acoustic instruments can feel the same aural transformation, but I prefer mine to be channeled through as much electricity as I can handle in a night.  If we could reasonably carry twice the gear so that the experience would be that much more deafening, we’d do it.  The experience is undeniable and we got there on Thursday.  It was terrific.

So that was RI.  Not much more to it than a late drive back to NYC and a very sleepy day at work on Friday.  Great to play with Coliseum for five nights; incredible to be able to play music to total strangers, have people sing your songs along with you, to be in a band with a friend, to look out a rear view mirror and see a trailer full of gear behind you going 75 miles an hour and think “somehow this is all working.”  Weird and wonderful.

Well, almost.  I will say that the rain that the car took on has been fermenting for a few days now and it smells like a set of tube socks from 1982.  Really, the whole car reeks of locker room.  My wife is probably going to kill me and she has every right to this.  And it’s been raining like Seattle so opening the cooped up car to is like zipping yourself up in Andre the Giant’s gym bag.

What do you do about that?  Those Christmas tree fresheners?  Some sort of Febreeze bomb?  Animal sacrifice?  I’ll be desperately scanning the comments for answers.


Justin Foley plays guitar and sings for the Austerity Program.  Their record Backsliders and Apostates Will Burn is out now.  Visit them online at  All messages about urban bike riding, vegetarian BBQ, and monetary policy will be answered first. You can also get a list of their upcoming tour dates here.

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