Review: Westbound Train, The Scotch Bonnets at the Middle East Upstairs in Cambridge, MA 9-16-2016

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I was still a little tired from the previous night’s Lush show, but a friend of mine who I haven’t seen in quite a while, is in The Scotch Bonnets, so I had to go. Plus I haven’t been to a ska show in a very long time. For the second night in a row, the Red Line had issues and had to “stand by” due to a disabled train…again, This cause me to get to the Middle East much later than planned, which in turn meant I missed openers The New Limits and caught Riki Rocksteady literally playing his last notes. I ordered a Sam Adams Octoberfest and stood among the crowd as The Scotch Bonnets were setting up.

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The Scotch Bonnets

Baltimore’s The Scotch Bonnets are a band I have followed for a while and I was glad that they were playing a Boston show. Fronted by singer/guitarist Kristin Forbes (full disclosure: Kristin is a friend of mine), who along with the rest of the band, kept the energy level pretty high. The bands brand of ska music that the pretty packed club dancing the whole time. This was a really fun set!

One more drink, this time a Hoponius Union before Westbound Train went on.

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Westbound Train

It was kind of interesting to see the 7 members of Boston’s own Westbound Train all try fit on the small stage. Their brand of ska was interesting as it seemed to have a bit of soul mixed into the songs. Frontman Obi Fernandez came off as very personable and held the crowds attention for the whole show, to the point where it seemed like everyone knew him personally. The entire band seemed to be having a really good time on what was the first of their two nights of shows at the Middle East.

Afterwards, I caught up with Kristin for a bit since I haven’t seen her in a long time, and after several hugs, I had to leave to catch one of the last trains back to Alewife. It had been a long time since I’ve been to this kind of show but I had a great time! I really wish I was able to see the two openers though, but I’m hoping they all make back to the area soon, because I will definitely be there.

Review: Lush, Tamaryn at Royale Boston 9-15-2016

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Ever since the Lush reunion was announced, I had hoped a tour would follow (it did) and that they would play Boston (they did). I got to Alewife and took the very much delayed Red Line train to downtown Boston, where I met up with a couple of friends for some pre-show dinner and drinks at Jacob Wirth, then we were off to Royale Boston

At the door, our excitement was brought down as I got hassled about my non-removable lens camera by the people working the door (who have a reputation all their own, just look up the Yelp reviews of this place). After proving to them it was NOT a professional camera and that I wasn’t interested in being in the photo pit, amongst other assumptions they made, I was finally allowed in (thanks to the manager who took a quick glance and said it was fine). This was kind of embarrassing and different people who witnessed this whole thing came up to me throughout the night and told me how ridiculous it all was. Admittedly, this whole incident soured me on the night, so I wasn’t all that excited to be there anymore, but tried to make the best of it. All of the pictures below were taken on an iPhone 6 because I was too self conscious about using the camera at this point. Ok, enough with the negatives, I was here to see some bands!

After finding a spot really close to the stage, we made a few friends around us while waiting for Tamaryn to go on.

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Tamaryn

I first saw Tamaryn on the river stage at Austin Psych Fest a couple of years ago and they were amazing. Tonight was even better (minus the incredible backdrop of the Colorado River). Tamaryn came out to loud cheers and started to play immediately. With a dream pop, shoegaze sound that consisted of some fairly heavy bass, singer Tamaryn made her way all over the stage, and at times, played keyboards. I thoroughly enjoyed their set.

After they were done, I checked out the merch table before Lush went on and Tamaryn was signing CDs for people. So that was pretty cool.

I grabbed a Harpoon UFO from that lady that sells them in the back corner for $5 and found a spot to see Lush even though there was a pretty large crowd.

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Lush

I was lucky enough to have seen Lush a few times in the 90’s…including that one time at Rocky Point in Warwick, RI where they played with Live and Weezer (that was a very strange night in more than a few ways). Of course nothing can top the time I saw Lush at a 4AD showcase (which also featured Mojave 3 and Scheer) in the 90’s at Lupos in Providence where I had an awesome spot right against the stage in front of lead singer Miki Berenyi.

It seemed like a it took a while for the band to come out, prolonging the anticipation. When they finally did and launched straight into “De-Luxe“, it was awesome! Although the vocals sounded a little more mature, as they would after 20 years, the band overall sounded great! Playing all of the favorites such as “Hypocrite“, “Light from a Dead Star“, the long slow jammy “Out of Control“, which had quite a few people bobbing their heads, and the faster “Lady Killers” which got everyone dancing around. In fact, during Ladykillers, Tamaryn stopped and danced right in front of me. They ended the set with “Sweetness and Light” and left the stage, only to come back a few minutes later for a 3 song encore. They appeared for a second encore to play one more song, before finally ending the night.

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Lush setlist that some girl was nice enough to let me take a picture of.

Considering all of the issues getting there on the T and then problems with staff, I still ended up having a pretty good time and it was great meeting some new people, but I will have to seriously think about going to any more shows at Royale again.

Review: Boston Fuzzstival 2016 Night 2 at the Middle East Downstairs 8-20-2016

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Every year I look forward to Fuzzstival, which is put on by Jason Trefts (a dude I have yet to formerly meet) at the Middle East in Central Square. It really is one of my favorite nights of music because it pretty much puts all of my favorite local-ish bands on one bill over two nights. I skipped the first night since I had something else going on, but got to the Middle East right at 6pm just as Weakend Friends were playing their last notes. I was really hoping to catch them, but definitely next time. I ordered a Sam Adams Octoberfest from the bar and moved closer to the main stage.

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Painted Zeros

The first band I caught was Painted Zeros who came up from Brooklyn. They played a great set of straight up dreamy indie rock and were a great first band to catch. A second stage was set up off to the side of the main stage, in that slight elevated area near the other bar. WAY OUT were up next on this stage.

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WAY OUT

Providence’s WAY OUT played a pretty energetic set of dark sounding, almost gothy punk rock. I really got into these guys and hope to see them again soon.

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Boytoy

Next were one of my other favorites, Boytoy, who I have been trying to see forever and finally got the chance. They did not disappoint and held the entire crowd’s attention with a set of lo-fi pop punk. This was a great set!

I caught a couple of songs during High Pop’s set but ended up leaving to find some food. The hardest part of Fuzzstival is deciding when to leave to get dinner. I ended up at the Dumpling Room across the street from the Middle East. The potstickers there were amazing and hit the spot.

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Ravi Shavi

I made it back in time to see Ravi Shavi, who are from Providence. This is another band that I’ve been trying to see for a while. With a garage pop sound and frontman Rafay Rashid moving and posing all around the small stage, they brought the room’s energy level up a notch.

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Ghost Box Orchestra

Next were one of my favorite Boston area bands, Ghost Box Orchestra, who I have seen many times. With a pulsing beat throughout most of their epically large sounding set, they pretty much won the night for me. They ended with a cover of the Pixies. This was probably my favorite set of the night.

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Zip-Tie Handcuffs

Another one of my favorites, 2015 Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble winners Zip-Tie Handcuffs melted faces with a very energetic set of garage rock.

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Major Stars

Major Stars, who I didn’t know too much about, started out a little slower than the previous few bands, but then it built up in to long jamming songs and totally won me over.

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Las Rosas

Brooklyn’s Las Rosas had a few people in the crowd dancing with their garage psych sound which at timed seemed to veer almost into punk territory.

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Quilt

This was my 4th time seeing Quilt, and second time within the last couple of months. With a quieter sound, Quilt were a little more subdued than the bands that played before them and there was still a pretty large crowd.

I was starting to get really tired at this point and considered leaving. I stayed until Quilt finished and as much as it killed me to miss Mini Dresses and Doug Tuttle’s sets, 6 hours was long enough combined with ear fatigue setting in from wearing my earplugs for almost that entire time.

I bought a t-shirt and was bummed to miss out on the awesome silk screened t-shirts (I really have to stop waiting til the end of shows to get these things), then headed out to catch the train back home.

As I said before, Fuzzstival is one of my favorite things to go to every year. Much thanks to Jason Trefts who puts it all together and makes it fun while helping to support local music as well as those smaller bands that are not so local.

Review: Belly at The Parlor in Newport, RI 7-09-2016

I drove down to Providence to pick up one of my best friends before heading to Newport for the second night of Belly’s hometown shows. We started out with some dinner and drinks at one of my favorite Newport restaurants, the Salvation Cafe. I had the short rib burger and a Foolproof Backyahd IPA (can you tell it’s a RI beer?) and she had the, always delicious pad thai. After dinner we walked the block or so over to The Parlor, where there was a decent sized crowd eagerly waiting for Belly to go on.

Once inside, you could actually feel the excitement in the air as people were chatting with each other and catching up with each other. Newport is a very small town and everyone knows everyone else, trust me on this. When Belly came out, their was thunderous applause and cheers and the band were all smiles while acknowledging this hometown crowd. I chose the wrong time to get a Brooklyn Lager, which to be honest, shouldn’t have taken the entirety of the first 3 songs for me to get. Either way, with my drink in hand, I tried to find a spot where I could see the band play.

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Belly

This was Belly’s first show in many years, although I swear I saw them somewhere once in the 90’s (Waterplace Park maybe?). It also served as a warmup show for their upcoming tour as well. Featuring a good mix songs, the majority being from the Star and King albums with a few new ones thrown as well. The band joked around and talked to people in the audience between songs. Bassist Gail Greenwood was very animated throughout the night and seemed to be having a great time. Before launching into what is by far their biggest hit, “Feed The Tree”, singer Tanya Donelly called the song their “bastard child”, which drew laughs from the crowd.

After a break, the band came back out and played a somewhat slower, more acoustic based set of music. They ended the night with “Thief” as the final song for an encore.

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Belly

After the show, they band hung around and talked to people, which only made sense as it seemed most people there new them personally. We decided to take off and get one more drink somewhere and ended up at Pour Judgement, which was a really cool little spot that had a band playing lots of older surf rock. This was a really fun night, especially with getting to catch up with a good friend, seeing some people I knew in my hometown, and of course Belly were great.

Belly 2016 tour dates:

Jul 28 The Crescent Ballroom – Phoenix, AZ
Jul 31 Drais Beach Club Night Club – Las Vegas, NV
Aug 09 Royale Boston – Boston, MA
Aug 10 Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY
Aug 11 Bowery Ballroom – New York, NY
Aug 12 Royale Boston – Boston, MA
Aug 13 9:30 Club – Washington, DC
Aug 14 Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA
Aug 24 Teragram Ballroom – Los Angeles, CA
Aug 25 Teragram Ballroom – Los Angeles, CA
Aug 26 Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA
Aug 27 Revolution Hall – Portland, OR
Aug 28 Neptune Theatre – Seattle, WA
Sep 17 Vic Theater – Chicago, IL
Sep 18 First Avenue – Minneapolis, MN

Review: King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, The Murlocs, Doug Tuttle at The Sinclair 5-13-2016

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Due to highway construction, I had to take a detour on my way to Alewife but happened to catch the Red Line train to Harvard Square just in time. I made the short walk to The Sinclair, where there was a little bit of line out in the drizzling rain to get in. At least the line moved fast, so it wasn’t a bad wait. Once inside, I ordered an Honest Weight Venture Paper rye beer and found a spot off to the side to see Doug Tuttle, who were already playing to a packed club.

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Doug Tuttle

Doug Tuttle played a pretty high energy psych rock set and sounded real good. This was my first time seeing them on a stage bigger than the one at the Middle East Upstairs, and it seemed to add to the energy, which in turn had the crowd going wild. They ended with a long, intense feedback filled jam which set the bar pretty high for the rest of the night.

I had a scary moment as I took out my Doppler Labs’ Dubs earplugs to chat with someone and the tip got stuck in my ear. After a few minutes, I managed to fish it out, but this is the third time this has happened in as many shows. So as much as I like these earplugs, I just can’t recommend them anymore (especially with the company, Doppler Labs, being unresponsive to this problem), which sucks, because they are one of the few that fit my ears perfectly. I switched to my backup pair of Planet Waves, which didn’t work quite as well, so the search for a new set is on.

I went to the bar to order another beer, this time a Blue Point Brewing Toasted Lager as I waited for The Murlocs to go on. I’ll give it to The Sinclair, they always have a good selection of beers on tap.

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The Murlocs

I’ll be honest, it took a little bit of time for me to get into Mebourne, Australia’s The Murlocs. About halfway through the set, their bluesy garage rock sound got a little heavier and I came around to liking them. It was a good segue into King Gizzard, who were up next.

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King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

I got to see about 15 minutes or so of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s set in Austin last month. By “see”, I mean standing near an open door behind Barracuda with around 20 other people and peeking in, but it was enough to convince me to want to see them when they hit the Boston area. Considering how fired up the sold out crowd was when the 7 members of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, also from Melbourne, took the stage, I knew this was going to be an insane set, and not just because of the “No Moshing” signs that were posted at the front door.

Opening with “Robot Stop”, which is also the first track on their new album Nonagon Infinity, the band had a frenetic energy that caused several mosh pits and crowd surfers to emerge during songs like “Evil Death Roll“. Much like that album, almost all of the songs flowed into each other and only stopping occasionally. With double drummers, and at times, harmonica and flute, they played a set that also featured songs from some of their older albums as well. After they finished, I went down to the front of the stage to see if there was a setlist (there wasn’t), but I ended up talking to a guy who was picking up his broken glasses and just passed it off as an “it was soo worth it!” kind of thing. That pretty much sums up how good of a time people had at this show and I have to agree.

I really wanted to get a King Gizzard t-shirt, but they only had XXL (?) left, so maybe next time. I was getting pretty hungry at this point and even though I swore I’d try something different, I still ended up at Tasty Burger for my usual Big Tasty. The place was filled with people wearing King Gizzard t-shirts and carrying newly purchased King Gizzard records, which was pretty cool. I caught one of the last trains back to Alewife and made my way home after what was a great night of music!

Review: Golden Dawn Arkestra, Indrajit Banerjee & Gourisankar, Fantasmes at the Scoot Inn 5-1-2016

In an attempt at least salvage some part of the cancelled Levitation 2016 weekend and not being able to get tickets for any of the announced last minute shows (ahem…Slowdive), I somehow managed to get a ticket for this one, which isn’t a bad thing as I love Golden Dawn Arkestra. I have never been to the Scoot Inn so I was kind of excited to check out a new venue. If I had one complaint, it would be the lack of information about set times. Multiple Twitter requests about this went unanswered, including those by several other people. The tickets said 5pm, one band posted 7pm, another 9pm. Ugh!

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The Scoot Inn

I got to the Scoot Inn, which is tucked in the middle of a residential neighborhood just east of downtown Austin, around 6:45pm and missed Blondi’s Salvation, who I was really hoping to see. Once inside, it sort of looked like an old fort or saloon and the stage area was much smaller than I expected. It was a pretty cool outside area though, with a lot of people hanging out and waiting. I went to the bar area and got a Fireman’s #4 beer and walked around for a bit as Fantasmes were getting ready to go on.

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Fantasmes

Fantasmes are a band from Puerto Rico and were the first band I got to see on this night. With droning guitars and lots of reverb, they mesmerized the crowd with atmospheric psychedelic jams that went well with the fading sunlight.

I moved to an area near the bar area, which is on a deck that overlooks the grounds and stage. I ordered an Austin Beerworks Black Thunder, which was a nice dark German style beer. I stood on the deck and ended up talking with a couple of people when Indrajit Banerjee & Gourisankar started playing.

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Indrajit Banerjee & Gourisankar

Indrajit Banerjee & Gourisankar just kind of walked onto the stage and sat down with their sitar and tabla and started playing. I honestly don’t think many people even realized that their set had started, but instead, thinking as I did that it was the music being pumped over the speakers before the band plays. Either way, these guys sounded really cool. It was kind of hard to see them on the stage, even though I was on the upper deck area near the bar, but there were just too many people in front. It was pretty chill music though, and I’ve said it before, I’m a big fan of the sitar.

I ordered one more Black Thunder before the night’s headliners, Golden Dawn Arkestra went on.

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Golden Dawn Arkestra

A Golden Dawn Arkestra show is something that you actually experience as opposed to something you just see. The first time I saw Golden Dawn Arkestra was at last year’s Levitation kick off party at Red 7 and they were one of the best things I saw all weekend. Tonight was no exception as they were equally as good.

The band made their way to the stage by dancing and singing their way through a crowd that made room for the costumed members to pass through. If you have ever seen Golden Dawn Arkestra, you know there are a *lot* of people in this band, which made me wonder how they were all going to fit on the stage. Somehow, they did, although it did look a bit cramped up there.

The band launched into “Osaka” and had the crowd dancing for the rest of the night. I was a little bummed they didn’t play my favorite song “Dimensions”, but that’s ok, because every song is truly a group experience and everybody was having a good time. They ended their set with “Masakayli” right at 10pm to a crowd that was chanting “one more song! one more song!”. A member of the band came out and explained that they wanted to play more, but there was a curfew so they couldn’t. At that point, most people filtered out.

This was an amazing night of music, and I at least got to see some bands from Levitation, so it wasn’t a 100% bust of a weekend. I took a walk over to East 6th street since I had never really been to this side of Austin and wandered around. I found a cool little bbq stand called Rolling Smoke BBQ and ordered a couple of brisket tacos which tasted amazing, then headed back to my hotel and called it a night.

Levitation 2016 Kick Off Party at Empire Control Room and Barracuda in Austin, TX 4-28-2016

This was a long and very strange day. After getting up at the ungodly hour of 3am to catch a flight to Austin for Levitation 2016 and very little sleep, I was really looking forward to these two shows. I got some lunch at Javi’s Best of Tex Mex, which is one my favorite places near my hotel, then went back to my room for a much needed nap. I woke up around 5pm, checked Twitter real quick and saw the extremely disappointing news that Levitation 2016 was cancelled. I thought this was a joke at first.

So, the festival was cancelled due to the threat of strong thunderstorms in Austin. I don’t think the 2 raindrops that fell all day counts as a storm, but whatever. There’s nothing as devastating as having something you were looking forward to for a year just pulled away at literally the last minute. Levitation/Austin Psych Fest has always been my favorite festival, even more so than Lollapalooza, so yeah, this really sucked. But, I was determined to make the best of the situation and with my weekend now freed up, I had time to do some apartment hunting (I’m looking for some leads on apartments that aren’t filled with waterbugs and possible jobs in Austin) and hang out in some of my favorite coffee shops and restaurants, so that was definitely a plus.

When these shows were announced, I had a hard time deciding where to go to the one at Empire Control Room or Barracuda (the third and much larger show was at the Mohawk, but I didn’t even consider it just because it would have been a pain to run between three clubs), so I bought a ticket for both. Since the show at Empire had an earlier start time and that’s where I began the night.

I got to Empire around 7:45pm, a little later than planned. I really love this venue! It’s small, but you can get a pretty good view of the inside stage from almost anywhere. I ordered a Karbach Weekend Warrior, which wasn’t bad, but had a little more of a sour taste than I like. Beer in hand, I made my way over to the room for Hidden Ritual.

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Hidden Ritual

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The Golden Dawn

With visuals projected onto every wall surrounding the stage, Austin’s own Hidden Ritual played a set full of reverb soaked psychedelia to a pretty good sized crowd. I ended up liking these guys a lot. From there, I went to the outdoor garage stage to see The Golden Dawn. I stuck around for a few songs, but it just wasn’t my thing. Maybe a little too much twang for my tastes. That being said, they had a pretty good crowd packed into the covered garage area as a few raindrops began to fall.

I could see a long line across the street at Barracuda and tried to wait it out for a bit. I ended up just going over there and chatting with people around me as we waited in line. In an “only in Austin” kind of thing, I was recognized by Tayler from Magic Shoppe, who was standing in front of me along with singer Josiah. It really is a small freakin world! This at least made the long wait to get inside that much easier. Inside, nobody was playing yet, so I ordered a Fireman’s #4 from the bar, then made my way to the outside stage to see Death Valley Girls

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Death Valley Girls

The outside stage at Barracuda (formerly Red 7) is one of my favorite places to see bands anywhere. Death Valley Girls definitely brought the garage rock sounds to the outdoor space.

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Sugar Candy Mountain

Sugar Candy Mountain were playing inside, so I went to check them out. To be honest, I wasn’t familiar with this band, but really enjoyed watching their set as did a lot of the people standing around me, who were having a lot of fun watching them. I thought that they sounded a like a more psychedelic Beatles.

I went back outside to see Levitation Room, but not before changing up my drink to a hard ginger ale, which was too syrupy and sweet for my tastes, so I trashed it. I also ran into the dude I was chatting with in line earlier and we ended up hanging out for a bit, so that was cool. Shows are always more fun with people to chill with.

Levitation Room

Coming from LA, Levitation Room brought a breezy sound that was a throwback to the older psych sound of the 60’s. These guys were great!

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The Turns

Back inside, The Turns kept the psychedelic vibes going. I went back outside and caught some of The Coathangers set. These four ladies totally rocked and had more of punk/grunge sound, which was a little different than most of the bands that played on this night.

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The Veldt

Inside, The Veldt were just getting started. Although they come from the early 90’s shoegaze scene, their set had a more R&B/soul feel to it with singer Daniel Chavis emotionally crooning through the songs. There was an intensity that I’m pretty sure every single person in the room felt. This was by far my favorite band of the night and the weekend!

After The Veldt’s set, I went over to Empire to see Ringo Deathstarr, a band I love and have seen a few times in the past. But it was a little too crowded and hot inside, so I went out to the little side area and could still hear them playing their gazey dream pop.

Once the show was over, I walked up 6th Street in a search for some late night food. I ended up getting a burger and fries at P. Terry’s and then made my way back to the hotel for some very much needed sleep and to figure out the rest of the weekend.