Ok, so here's how things went down.
I started the smoker at about 1130 (i.e. 2330) Friday. I used aluminum foil in the water pan to create an air pocket. I basically foiled about half the depth of the pan. This seemed to work fine, but what I learned is that I'm not good at making seams in foil, so I wasn't able to use the juices in there as they seeped into the bottom of the pan and burnt from the direct contact with the heat. That's too bad as I was looking forward to that....
I had some temp control problems early because I didn't need as much fuel to get it hot, but with the wind gusts making the fuel burn faster, I had to replenish the coals every hour or so, and sometimes I would doze off for too long and my temps would drop below 190! The minion method wasn't working for me as I think it just resulted in heat spikes, and the need to replenish coals. I did notice it was easier to get the smoker up to temp without the water in the pan. I normally have a hard time generating heat, but this time I was able to consistently achieve 225 and up at will. Fortunately, I didn't have any outrageous heat spikes, although I twice went to 275, but only for a few minutes. I controlled that by opening the door.
I actually mopped both the butt and brisket a couple times with apple juice after about 5 hours in the smoker. I didn't notice anything different about the meat doing this, but it gave me something to do. At around 11 or 1130 Saturday morning, I decided I'd had enough smoke in those pieces of meat and decided to switch to the inside heat sources so that I could get the house together. (My wife was at work.) I foiled the brisket about an hour before I pulled it off the smoker, then put the foiled brisket in the oven on a cookie sheet in the 225 oven until I got to 190 or 195. I pre-heated a cooler and put a towel in the bottom, placed the brisket in the cooler and placed a towel on top and closed the cooler until it was time to eat.
The butt, I finished in the slow cooker (it was already at 170) until it hit 200. I added a little apple juice (2Tbs) to the cooker. I think this is my favorite way to finish a butt as it collects all of the fat and the juice and rub make a fantastic sauce. It was such a good sauce, we didn't use finishing sauce! You don't seem to get that when you finish it on the smoker, although I love it that way too. The butt was perfect and my wife loves me a little more now because I think this one turned out really nice with great flavor and juiciness. Continuing with the theme of success, everyone loved the Starnes type bbq sauce I got the recipe for on here. That stuff's the answer.
The brisket had been prepped as I'd seen on Steven Raichlen's show with a paste of mustard brown sugar and garlic, then I rubbed it (it was pretty late) with Stubb's barbecue rub before throwing it into the smoker. I trimmed the brisket a little, leaving a quarter inch or so, but am not convinced that I needed to, particularly after the dry result. I cooked fat cap down as I had in the past and which usually worked fine. I may try fat cap up next time and see if the basting theory makes a difference. As usual, the burnt ends were the favorite of my friend and me. Despite the dryness, I also made a sandwich with a half dozen slices of the brisket and that was really good with a little bbq sauce on it. My smoke ring wasn't as pronounced as I normally get. It was off by about a 16th or so. I'm wondering if the heat spikes caused the problems. I may need to try it again when I've had more rest and can more responsibly monitor the smoker.
As for the impression of the piedmont pan, I think I'm a convert. I'll need to try it again once more before I'm totally sold, but it seemed more efficient for my smoker. I didn't have as hard a time achieving or maintaining heat and I suppose I used less fuel. All told, I used a 12lb box of char-broil lump charcoal and about 5 lbs of hickory with a few hunks of pear and mesquite mixed in there.
Despite the dry (but tasty) brisket, I'll call this one a success. We had a really good time and sat around our fire pit on the deck after dinner enjoying cold beverages and a great fire! (fire's awesome) I'm pretty sure I have black lung right now from monitoring the smoker, then sitting by the fire pit all night, but I'll just have to learn to deal with that... Thanks for all of the input here and for the great resources to make this as easy as can be expected!