Saturday, July 12, 2014

St. Louis

Animals: Kildeer

Quotes: “Drink that bottle like it’s got a vein in it.”

SIARPC: Spoon Weatherwax

I love being from the Midwest. I love being in a band that is so apparently identifiable as mid-western. So I don’t know if it’s the familiarity of my home region or it really is boring, but west of the Rockies watching the world go by is a continually enchanting activity. East of the Rockies is rather more spare in its physical enchantments, like Anne Ramsey making out with Ernest Borgnine.* Kansas to St. Louis I barely even looked up. Plus, the hotels in both KC and St. Louis were in fairly faceless, nondescript locations. It was like that in Oakland too, but there was major easy to use public transportation. Not so here. I’m not judging, Cincinnati’s the same way. Add to that the much shorter drive distances which have us arriving at the hotel around 4:00, and you’ve created the first real boredom of the tour for me. Nothing to walk to, no realistic way to get to a museum or some such, yet not enough time to swim or get in a good nap. I got caught up on the blog and that was about it.

It’s the 4th of July and we were playing a club called Plush. We flat out love Plush. Because the usual things that make for a great venue: great sound, stage, and staff, but also, and I think I wrote about this before so I’ll keep it brief, they feed us and let us hang in a huge, super cool apartment/green room upstairs. It’s like Wussy family time. We watched Dr. Steve Brule videos, ate delicious food, and wondered whether anyone would show up. Holiday shows can be sketchy. Especially summer holidays because it’s such a travel/family time. Add into it that St. Louis also puts on a big fireworks jobby over the river near the arch, and there you go, cricket city. As an aside I love fireworks. I grew up in a state where they are illegal so of course they were like ‘splodey gold. We tried to synchronize the launch of multiple bottle rockets so as to lift various payloads, but that never worked. We lit snakes off on people’s porches and then rang the doorbell and ran. I had one possibly sociopathic friend who one time put an M-80 under a can, thus creating a spray of shrapnel that should have sent us to the hospital.  He was the kind of kid who would chase you around with a lit Roman candle. On the plus side he frequently stole his stepdad’s Playboys and I think the first alcohol I ever had was in his basement. (Peppermints Schnapp’s – so gross) God we loved our fireworks. And then when I was older I had a job helping to run sound for the Akron Symphony Orchestra’s summer concerts, which took place in parks around the area during the 4th of July season. At the end of the ridiculously truncated 1812 Overture there would inevitably be a fireworks display. Some of the guys would try to wrap cables in the dark but I would lay on my back and let the charred bits sprinkle around me from the best seat in the house.

Of course we were completely blocked by buildings and could see nothing but smoke and the occasional flash from the St. Louis fireworks. I went for a walk seeking a vantage point but was thwarted. Still, surprisingly, we had a pretty good-sized crowd. And while I’m aware that I go on a bit about how wonderful and enthusiastic our crowds are it’s true. We got called back for a second encore for the first time of the tour. As in the crowd didn’t budge and kept on hollering. It was wonderful. After a bunch of unprofessional hem-hawing we decided to take a crack at Acetylene. I love playing that song and hopefully we can get to it more often. This was one of those evenings where I could’ve played for another hour.

I like St. Louis a lot. KDHX has supported us from way back when, and the Twangfest people are awesome. I like the town though too. Delmar is cool, I’ve only been once but I loved the public market. Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, all seem to have a similar Midwestern, industrial, brick building vibe, but also great down to earth art scenes as well.


Tomorrow is Lexington, the last show of this the longest toe of the tour.

*with tongues

Monday, July 7, 2014

Kansas City

We apologize. The intro is closed today so the employees can spend time sharpening their saw.


I try to be cognizant of the fact that at any given show we only see a very small part of a given town, and that to make a sweeping judgement will only make me look like an asshole. Take for instance Denver. Our first show there was in a part of town that was not bad but a little rough, on a big street without a lot in the surrounding area to fix it in our memories. Then of course this last show was in the SOBO area and everyone fell in love with it. Similarly I don’t feel like I got much of a sense what kind of town Kansas City is, although to a one everybody we met was super nice. I think I need to look at maps more. It bothers me to not know where we are in the context of the larger city.

I should back up unless I want to write a “Time’s Arrow*” kind of post. The drive to Kansas City is kind of depressing. It’s like the country decided to just cut you off cold turkey after the beauty of the mountains, deserts, purple majesty etc. with a soul crushing homogeneity. I liken it to an experience such as this. Imagine you are sitting on a chair which is on a moving sidewalk. At the beginning of the sidewalk is a naked woman with chipped nail polish, tattoos of birds, quietly reading “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” while at the other end of the sidewalk is your Grandmother. Also naked. The sidewalk stops and you’re just sitting there staring at your Grandma until you say,
“Uh, Hi Grandma.”
“Hello.”
“Are you OK?”
“I’m fine.”
“Not cold?”
“I’m fine thank you.”
“Good good. “
Silence
“So…. How’s Grandpa?” 
“He recently decided that colostomy bags had gotten too expensive so he switched to brown paper bags.”
“What?”
“So I left him. It’s not the Great Depression anymore. And honestly, he’s been a pretty lousy lay for the last 40 years. There’s no point to Viagra if you don’t know what to do with it.”
“Grandma – please stop.”
“I mean you can’t just drop a worm in a lake and expect to catch a fish. You know what I mean.”

That’s what driving east out of Denver is like.

We were to play a club called the Record Bar, but before I comment I need to issue the caveat that I felt like shit this day. Woke up more tired than when I fell asleep. My stomach was a mess. Feeling like crap has seemed to jump from one person to the next on a given day. Which actually goes to show how much better we’ve done physically this tour. Things don’t really get ugly until feeling like shit reaches a critical mass among band members. Regardless, today was my day in the hopper. We went to a delightful smelling barbecue place called something starting with a "Z", because that’s what you do in Kansas City. I will give this to KC, it is one of the better smelling towns. Periodically, just driving down the road you get big whiffs of hickory smoke. Anyway, as a vegetarian it was a dinner of sides for me, and for whatever reason my body said, in the upper class English accent my intestines usually use to speak, "I say old boy, would you mind very much if I just rejected this meal out of hand? Right then, no whimpering. Sweaty stiff upper lip and all. Oh, and do you remember that dream you had of Margaret Thatcher riding a horse bareback in slow motion? This will be worse." I felt like I was going to die like either the guy in “Alien” or the guy from “The Meaning of Life.**”

The Record Bar is in a strip mall right next to a Dollar Store. When I walked in I immediately smelled natural gas or something like it. Joe smelled it too so I wasn’t being entirely fussy. He went up to the door guy and asked about it. The door guy took a big sniff and said he smelled nothing. I guess you get used to it. Lisa had family in town so the rest of us sat outside near some suspended wagon wheels and looked glum. I went in to the Dollar Store and bought a whoopee cushion for Chuck, a dart gun, and some Brim’s Brand cheese doodles. The cushion has been a delight, the gun never worked, and the doodles tasted like Styrofoam.

Opening up for us was a duo called Schwervon, whom Chuck and Lisa had opened for in Cincinnati. They had been telling us ever since how delightful they were as people and just as wonderful as musicians. Unfortunately I just couldn’t take the smell so I missed their set, which I regret because they really were sweet, funny folks. I mean, I kind of love them both. Regardless, I had to get out of there. I went for a walk, found the entertainment district where all the young people see how the social skills they learned in college will fair in the real world. I heard more than one person exclaim, “There’s nothing going on tonight.” I wanted to tell them there was a middle-aged band up the street singing songs about regret, but none of their eyes were haunted so I left them to their Coronas.

I ended up at the Westport Flea Market, which is a pretty great place. Apparently they make great burgers, but I love the combination of a flea market with a bar. Plus, they had some sweet vintage arcade machines. I sat on the patio and read until time to play. And it really was a great club to play. Some of the best onstage sound we’d had all tour. We had a crowd of about the size you’d expect for a town we’ve not really played in often before. I really enjoyed playing, proving that it is possible to find joy even amidst the very real possibility of expelling organic matter at high speeds in a rather sudden and unexpected manner. And the crowd was so sweet. One guy brought his 13 year old son who seemed appropriately, but not overly bored. Several people said they were going to drive to St. Louis to see us there too. I still think there’s a gas leak but no one died, so it’s all win.

Tomorrow is St. Louis.


* “Or the Nature of the Offence”
** I'm kind of exaggerating here because it's fun to write in the voice of an intestine. Really, I just felt gassy and uncomfortable.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Travel Day #7

Animals: Same as yesterday

Quotes: “No. Those are yours. You’re the garbage eater.” –  Lisa to Chuck while pointing at the slices of summer sausage segregated because they had touched the table. Chuck gave her a look, dropped a slice on the floor, let it sit there a few seconds then popped it in his mouth.

SIARPC: Dumpy Rutherford

Everyone really wanted to go back to the neighborhood where we had played because there was so much we wanted to check out during the day. Thankfully I was broke enough to remove the temptation presented in all the cool, slightly hipster-ish stores. Lots of vintage stores, a high-priced cooking implements store, tons of bars, (including two with skee ball) three independent bookstores, (!) and a wonderful ice cream store that had a line out the door the entire previous night. I had eaten a bag of trailmix so I guess the Black Walnut ice cream wasn’t breakfast, but it felt like it. Black Walnut ice cream is rare and this stuff was top shelf. I found my way to a great little coffee shop, worked on the blog and watched the regulars do their thing. Everyone was in a good mood as we piled in the van to head off into the heart of Kansas.

And in case you’re wondering about the great pot experiment going on in Colorado, I didn’t notice a damn thing different than most big cities. One guy rolling a joint on the sidewalk was about it.

We drove to a hotel in a town called Wenakee, but really it was just a place within site of the highway. Three crones, almost identical except for variations in the wispiness of their white hair ran the place with the exactitude of exiles enduring a long punishment for their supernatural misdeeds. We called them either the Three Witches* or the Witches of Eastwick.



*I had no idea that the Weird Sisters band in Harry Potter came from Macbeth. Oh JKR I love you so.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Denver

Animals: Long-billed Curlew, Western Kingbird, Eurasian Collared-Dove

Quotes: “Fuck you Summer Santa.” – Santa should not wear a Hawaiian shirt and we should never ever see his feet.

SIARPC: Pee-Pee Golberg

Today’s drive to Denver seemed to take forever. As we moved northward New Mexico became and interesting combination of desert colors with increasingly green trees and foothills. It’s quite pretty, and John told us that we were at the same general latitude as the Smokey Mountains, of which he is very familiar. There really doesn’t seem to be a lot of people out this way. When we stopped for gas it involved 3 mile drives to the only gas station in town. I saw more than a few shacks, although often with an adobe core, and mobile homes. In many ways the region bore a striking similarity to Kentucky Appalachia, although much less leafy. The people were largely Hispanic, but all had a weathered outdoor appearance with functional cowboy hats and dusty pick up trucks. Both times we stopped out here I felt very comfortable. Less taciturn than their Montana brethren we struck up casual conversations easily. We also tried something called a Peanut Patty, which was like a praline formed out of a pink urinal cake. No one could finish their broken off piece. Goodness.

We got to the Denver neighborhood of South Broadway (SOBO) after the stores had closed but still with a little light in the sky. The club was called 3 Kings and it was a rock club formed after the classic model. The green room was wallpapered in promo pictures from ‘90’s bands and then covered in nice patina of stickers from bands who never had a promo picture. The green room had a ramp on either side that led to a wide, comfortable stage. The men’s room had a pee trough that smelled like Calcutta in summer but the club had an admirable collection of pinball machines and even a vintage Tron game. Which was totally awesome. The DJ was dressed like a clothed Bettie Page and the beer selection was local. I liked it. The opening band never showed up. We have no idea what happened. So we went on a little early and played to a medium sized crowd. They were enthusiastic, but just like last time the energy is different here. I’ve tried to come up with some description but cannot. The exchange of energy between band and audience is a very real thing and ultimately unique every night. The best I can say is that it was kind of like having dinner with a family who doesn’t speak the same language but are kind and accommodating. Then there was the added factor of an ex-pat Cincinnati dude who said his band had opened up for us way back in the day (“I learned to play listening to you guys.”) who had applied alcohol to his memories and frequently did a dance that involved hurling his body to the ground and sliding across the floor. He also tried to start up a mosh pit which is ridiculous at our concerts or in any year that's not the 1990's. When he slammed into a women who wanted to get near the stage for the last song I had to go into teacher mode, give him the hand, and tell him to simmer down. He was a nice kid, just shit-faced.

The club was happy with the turn out for a Tuesday and asked us back, so I guess it went OK.


Tomorrow is Travel Day #7

Our Second Favorite Hole, or Travel Day #6

Animals: Mountain Bluebird, Scrub Jay, Nuthatch, Mule Deer

Quotes: “That’s like drinking bad breath”

“A plaque of grasshoppers.”

“I think we’ve zeroed in on heaven.”

SIARPC: Bloody Hatchett (the comedian not the band)


John got us a late check out time at the delightful Valley Ho so it was time to take our rest with the people whose voices sound like money, inexhaustibly charming and rising and falling like a cymbal song. I went to the fitness center and watched, “My Cousin Vinny” while coming to a decision. I was going to get a fancy-pants-less massage. That’s what credit cards are for and besides they were running a mid-week deal. I ran down and got in the pool for a few minutes because it looked like a mirage and found John, Lisa, and Rene’ already floating. I think all pools should be salt water. They’re delightful. After three weeks of sitting in a van, interspersed with lots of jumping up and down and carrying stuff, the massage was divine. I tell you what, I’m not really capable of doing the things that create fiscal wealth, nor do I have a particularly strong desire for stuff, but there appear to be some advantages to being rich. Besides the obvious advantage of having all worrisome moles monitored and air conditioning in ones car, their water tastes either like lemons or cucumbers, their robes are so heavy they feel like a compression vest, and day drinking is elevated to an eternal cocktail hour of the soul.

Regardless, I felt as relaxed as I had on the entire tour, excepting of course the warm and fuzzies following the taking of the waters outside of Butte.

No show tonight. We just have to be in Denver by tomorrow, and it just so happens the Grand Canyon is on the way. Of course in this part of the country “on the way” takes on a completely different meaning. We didn’t even make it to the actual park until about a half hour before sunset. The upside is that the canyon looked as if it was lit from within, the reds and oranges becoming indistinguishable from the rocks. We were on the south rim and I can’t remember what the north rim looked like from my youth, but it’s hard to imagine it can surpass the views here. Of course there were a lot of people there, but just as in San Francisco the English language was only one small part of the canyon’s polyglot. At first all the voices seemed jarring in such a place and I actually gave a thought to what it means if the Grand Canyon is incapable of moving you. Then I went to a little spot off the path and sat until the stillness of the place slowed down my heart enough to hear it. I walked along the edge until I got to a spot where I found Lisa and Rene’ and we stopped to watch the sun set. By the time we got back to everyone else the stillness had grown until it became like a physical thing that nothing could disrupt or destroy. Kind of like Wonder Woman’s plane. You know, technically invisible but kind of shimmery so you know it’s there. Chuck had been ready to go for an hour and we all began to realize that we had once again given ourselves a difficult black as late night drive. This time however we were a long ways from anywhere. We decided to make it to Albuquerque so we wouldn’t have to deal with the mountains at night. It was a long slow drive. We crossed into New Mexico and around Gallup were assaulted by a smell that was horrifying. Not a livestock smell, which is also punishing, but more of a gassy smell. Shortly after that faded we stopped at a gas station where I immediately noticed mostly mashed desert-brown grasshoppers littering the ground. Oh but then I looked up. They were everywhere. Flying around like their little hive mind had just gotten to the word “apocalypse” in the dictionary. The store had these 4-foot rag dolls that Chuck scared the shit out of Lisa by having one jump out at her from around a corner. John walked around announcing in a mechanical voice, “Driver 47 shower three is now available,” even though there were no showers. Lisa noticed that the audiobooks bore the slogan, “Like Movies for Your Mind!” which means I think that there is no hope for humanity.

We didn’t get in to Albuquerque until 5 in the morning because we lost an hour coming back into Mountain Time. Chuck walked into the room, dropped his bags and said, “There’s no way I’m sleeping here. It’s too damn small. I’m sleeping in the van.” Then left. We all settled into a twitchy silence when the fucking room starts vibrating like a giant had inserted a quarter into the roof of this janky hotel to start the world’s biggest 1,000 fingers machine. We all just started laughing because what else can you do? And it continued to happen periodically throughout the night. Turns out our room backed right up against the laundry room and our wall was next to the hotels huge laundry machine.


Tomorrow is Denver.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Phoenix

Animals: Great-Tailed Grackle

Quotes: “This pop is like it’s been sitting on the stove. I hate this place.”

SIARPC: Wayne Coyne Purse

Heading from San Clemente to Phoenix means it’s desert time.  We stopped at the exact same oasis we did last time. You know, the one with the General George S. Patton Museum. And as soon as we opened the doors the heat hit us like a wooden spoon at a school for wayward boys. I was thirsty for the next two days. The desert is beautiful for a little while and fortunately we didn’t have West Texas to dread forward to this time. We saw several accidents where people must have fallen asleep or just started staring at their phone because they were all single car crashes and there’s just nothing to run into out there.

Civilization, somewhat depressingly began to reassemble itself like scattered wood blocks. And then greater Phoenix was just there. It was so fucking hot and we hadn’t really eaten all day which lent a surreal air to the whole place that may or may not be present always. The light, the flatness, the low buildings made us feel as if we were in a foreign land. We pulled up to the club, which was really an art space called the Trunk Space, and all the people hanging around were wearing jeans and leather boots and not sweating at all. Acclimation is real.

I was feeling kind of shaky and Lisa had developed a thousand yard stare and started mumbling things like, “Oh look, I’m not hungry or thirsty any more. How wonderful.” We found a little place called Jobot, which was pretty damn good and we revived enough to play an OK show.

Except for a few old timers like ourselves who had driven from LA to see the show, most of the crowd were kids. I think this was our only all ages show of the tour. There were 4 or 5 bands and they were all arty or punk. The place had DIY books, 45’s etc. and everyone was obviously invested in building their scene. After we played a band of kids still in high school just set up on the floor in front of the stage and started playing. They played punk that sounded sometimes like early Meat Puppets and sometimes just shouty 40 second guitar songs. The drummer had cinder blocks in front of his kick drum to keep it from sliding and the lead singer played with his shirt off. So rocknroll is going to be just fine.

And now it gets awesome for us and not for you. John, as a treat for his own birthday had booked two rooms at a super cool, posh hotel called Valley Ho. It was built in 1956 and had a Hollywood cache’ for a time. After a bunch of boring history some company spent 80 million dollars to update the place while keeping all the great ‘50’s architecture. I mean every detail was a pleasure to look at.  Let’s see if I have the ability to describe it. Lots of burnt umber and green with white accents. When you walked in the room there was a low counter that ran along the length of the painted brick wall, and it was covered in that white speckled plastic stuff that used to cover every kitchen counter in the country. The bathroom had a bathtub and a light switch marked mood lighting. The soap was a super-ball sized ball and smelled like a French wet nurse. The pool was salt water, circular and ringed by misting tents with waitresses who were angelic and clothed in some sort of miracle, space-age diaphanous material. The place had the layout where there were no inside hallways. Every door opened to face the courtyard/pool. Each floor had it’s own pattern of colored square tiles and the balconies had these weird slightly Aztec looking molded concrete forms attached. Go in the off season it's actually affordable.

This day kind of kicked our asses but a good show and great accommodations mean we can’t complain.

Tomorrow is a travel day.


Not Really San Diego

Animals: Brown Pelicans

Quotes: Nothing. We didn’t go anywhere.

SIARPC: Goeta Lee

We were supposed to play San Diego but had to cancel pretty much the day before. Which in this business is bad news indeed. Here’s what happened. Rene’ had booked us at a club a while back but the club closed so she had to scramble to get a new location. The best she could find was a space that did house type shows but not in an actual house. I’m only putting this together via second hand information so if I get it wrong it’s all my fault. It’s my understanding that the dude setting up the show, in his excitement to have us there began to build a stage. The landlord apparently took exception to this and said he had broken his lease and was gonna shut the show down. So we were super disappointed and by this stage of the tour, any night we’re not playing there is no money coming in but only going out.

There are worse things than a day off in San Clemente though. One of Joe’s best friends in the world lives there, which kind of explains why we ended up there in the first place. This friend possesses two paddleboards so John, Joe, and I went and did that. He took us to the part of Point Dana the locals call Baby Bay. It was fun. You stand on an oversized surfboard and paddle with an extra long paddle. (The paddler paddles his paddleboat with padded paddles) I want to try it in water that isn’t so placid next time.

The rest of the day went like this: gift shopping, delightful fancy-pants lunch of cheese and wine, laundry, another walk to downtown, watch the Reds play while drinking over-priced margaritas, walk down to the pier and watch all the people out fishing around midnight. This late night pier fishing seems a somewhat grim business by the expressions on the fisherpeople. Even though this is a touristy sort of place, every single person with a pole in the water looked like they were fishing for dinner and settled in for the long haul. (sorry) Piers also always seem to attract teenagers pretending to be tough. I enjoy that too.

Now John, Lisa, and Rene’ had gone back to Hollywood just for the fun of it. They had a ridiculously silly good time. Lisa found her grandmothers grave, John bought a shirt that lights up. They saw a full grown man in an Elmo suit, which we decided out creeps clowns with stubble poking out through their make-up and tears in the knees of their soiled pants. However, I had hoped that either they or Joe would be back by midnight so I wouldn’t have to walk back to the hotel. Too bad so sad. It’s all uphill and I wanted to die.

That’s it.


Tomorrow is Phoenix.