Audubon Park's first show was at the Nightlight in May of 2003. We played with Erie Choir (the beginning of a long tradition of letting Eric ride on our coattails). This was when the stage was still in the front corner of the place. And when it still had books and was the Skylight Exchange during the day.
The Nightlight was my favorite place to play for several reasons, but the ability to browse water-damaged and molding paperbacks was the clincher. The piles of books still in boxes from some estate sale, ancient Ellery Queens and brightly colored Modern Library editions, dust covered and dry. Old covers, old translations, authors that have faded out of even the most rabid reader's memory. It was just the perfect place for Audubon Park to play. Our little bower of forgotten books.
In the weeks leading up to the show, with our set of songs perfectly practiced, we discussed learning a cover. We batted a few things around and finally Finn said, "Hey, listen. Can we play 'Takin' Care of Business' by BTO?"
"Really?" the rest of us said.
"Yeah, I have my reasons. See..." And then Finn explained why he wanted to play it. It would be improper for me to put Finn's business on the street, so I will let him chime in on his love for that song if he wishes. All that needs to be said is that we learned it and when we played it, we melted faces.
After that, we began a tradition of playing covers at shows, but increasingly we did it without ever bothering to learn the song first. We played "Never Tear Us Apart" at Go! after running through the song once at practice, with Finn faking the sax solo with his mouth. We played "Don't Stop Believing" and "Cut Your Hair," both without ever having played the song before based purely on some unspoken cultural understanding.
In fact, after our first few shows, we more or less stopped practicing all together. We began to only get together to learn new songs and record every so often. Most of the time, our ragged charm overflowed the boundaries of our errors, but on a few occasions, we "flew too close to the sun with this not-practicing thing'" (as Matt said).
Of course, we are combining everything into one great stew this Saturday--Friday night will be the first time that all five of us have been together in over a year. We are going to relearn all our songs and then all of "Born in the USA."
I have no doubt that we will be able to "take care of business" because I "don't stop believing" that being unpracticed will "never tear us apart" or "cut our hair."
I'm sorry. That almost worked.