Sunday, November 10, 2013

Flying Colors and an Altercation at the Hotel Congress

The Hotel Congress in Tuscon advertised that it was “an urban, historic hotel,” and that my room “may be affected by plaza, nightclub, or street noise.” I knew that they meant business when I noticed that alongside the usual hotel soap and shampoo there were also complimentary earplugs. I wasn’t too particularly worried about the noise, though, and the hotel itself was pretty cool. It was founded in 1919, and the management, using “authentic” technology, capitalized on the establishment’s history whenever possible. Just look at that switchboard!

It also lived up to its promise as a contemporary hot spot, with a wedding party and bands playing well into the night. I gave this whole scene a wide berth. With the exception of a slightly surreal trip to grab some mint tea across the street, I stayed blissfully isolated, watching prog-rock videos through the hotel’s free, decidedly non-authentic shared WiFi.  I was, however, distracted by a heated and loud altercation between another patron of the hotel and a person who I assume was the hotel manager. The guy was obviously inebriated and causing trouble downstairs, and the manager wanted him to sleep it off. After a few tense minutes and a bribe of complimentary booze, the patron agreed to stay in his hotel room. This seemed to work, at least for a few hours.

When this shouting match died down, I was able to refocus on the the new Spock’s Beard tracks that I had stumbled across, featuring Ted Leonard of Enchant on lead vocals and, more excitingly, Neal Morse as a co-writer.  I was an avid Spock's Beard fan in the early to mid 90s, but after lead singer and primary songwriter Neal Morse left the band to go on a religious quest, the band’s distinctive chemistry was, in my opinion, crippled. Aside from his mission, however, Morse has been quite busy with solo albums and collaborations in the decade since he left the group, one of which was one-off debut album by Flying Colors.

Flying Colors is, in every sense of the word, a supergroup formed primarily through the member's various connections with ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy. It is not guaranteed that musicians in these situations can create instant chemistry, but Flying Colors, with the experienced virtuosity of Steve Morse and Dave LaRue, coheres  quite well into a distinctive iteration of the hard rock/progressive pop formula.

The band is like a primordial soup of creativity. Each of these musicians are strong contributors to the groups from which they come, and wild card Casey MacPherson snatches the album from the edge of cliche with gratifying regularity.  Still, the as a whole, some songs are clearly more refined than others.  Flying Colors was, however, crafted in an incredibly short amount of time (nine days!), so the few tracks that seem less strong should probably not be judged too harshly. In any case, the album clearly reflects the collaborative potential of these top-notch musicians.

After waiting on the hotel's sputtering WiFi, I started to feel a bit worn out.  Despite the noise levels, however, I was apprehensive about putting in earplugs and oversleeping on the second day of my lifting seminar. As I'd hoped, the music and noise really didn't bother me too much.

At 1:15, however, I was awoken when the patron, even louder and more far gone than before, had apparently finished his "payment" and snuck back downstairs and was being resolutely forbidden from returning.  The manager was threatening to call the police to have him removed from the hotel entirely, but the tenant was far too inebriated to reason with.  He seemed to soften, however, when he somehow remembered that his previous outburst got him some free booze .  When he tried to plie the manager for a similar deal, manager told him, unapologetically, that his maneuvering was embarrassing.  Without even his dignity to sell, the tenant sheepishly went back into his room and quieted down.

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