Monday, July 28, 2014

Boston You're My Home

Animals: Great Blue Heron

Quotes: “I heard LeBaron is coming back to Cleveland.”

“I always figured her butt smelled like a well bucket.”

SIARPC: Fat Folds Five

For the two days preceding our leaving, and continuing apparently forever, I have been getting hammered by the acid stomach and omnipresent anxiety. I don’t even know what to do. Nothing seems to be working, not even gobbling antacids like a stockbroker on September 18th, 1929. I woke up far earlier than I wanted to but couldn’t quiet my brain. So I went for a jog because sometimes that helps. On my travels I found a shop in a depressing little strip mall that sold all things British. They had prawn crisps, scampi flavored crackers, and all manner of chocolate with air bubbles in it. I got Marmite flavored potato chips that tasted like yeast, and a plastic foot that spouts Monty Python insults for my kids. 

And then off to Boston. Our first destination was the house of Darren, the co-owner of Shake It Records, our label. He was the guy who asked Chuck to bring in a three song demo we had made in one evening in order to be considered for the MidPoint Music Fest, and when he heard it said, "Do you want to make a record?" He is also a good and old friend. We spent a lovely couple of hours hanging out in what is apparently one of the few  backyards in Cambridge, eating cook-out food and relaxing with his brilliant wife and kids. We weren’t supposed to be at the club in Jamaica Plain until 8:00 because they had a Grateful Dead cover band playing an early show. The upside to what is basically a morally offensive gathering, that in a less free society would be banned on grounds of cancer causing tediousness, was the fact that there were several dogs in attendance. Including a particular pug who sat on his owner’s lap at the bar with a small glass of Guinness in front of him for a full five minutes until he was given the signal, and then ever so elegantly he put his cute little paws on the bar and lapped it up. My sister-in-law (former) got cornered by a guy who said he had done ‘shrooms with Jerry Garcia back in the ‘70’s. Great, and I pooped in the same stall that Jeff Tweedy once used back in 2010.

We haven’t been to Boston since I started the blog so I’ll briefly give some background as to why Boston shows are sweetly nostalgic for me. I feel like I might be repeating myself here but I’m sure as hell not going to go back and re-read all this stuff to find out. Anyway, I went to college there, which I credit as to being maybe the most important non-prison formative experience in making me the person I am now. Moving from a small suburb in Ohio to the heart of Boston was at first overwhelming, sort of frightening, and I hated it. By my second year I had learned to look pissed off so the Scientologists would leave me alone, and slowly my worldview expanded. Berklee is a small school but draws from all over the world, so I remember clearly reveling in the experience of sitting on a hard plastic purple chair in the lobby and being surrounded by conversations, none of which were in English. Anyway, one summer I stayed in Boston to do a crappy internship at a local recording studio. I met my future ex-wife at the bookstore where I found a job, and thus a deep and abiding connection to the region was born.

Jamaica Plain has changed a ton since I was here in the day back then, and the neighborhood where the Midway CafĂ© was located seemed cool. The show had sold out fairly quickly, which was awesome, even keeping in mind it’s a pretty small club. People were vying to get in just like for a real band. Getting a show in Boston is really hard. For some reason the clubs book way out in advance and we, even at our most business-like, never book early enough. And so it had been since 2009 when we had last played here. It was fun to debut Strawberry material as well as the Attica! songs. For the second night in a row we played as if our lives depended on it and the crowd gave it right back. It’s a great little club, I liked it a lot. Getting to hang out with family, dear friends from college, and transplanted Cincinnatians was pretty sweet as well.

Tomorrow is Baltimore.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Albany Again

Life turns on a dime. My earliest memories of anxiety stem from a burgeoning awareness of the capriciousness of life. Good parents give their children a sense of safety but slowly, or at least hopefully slowly, through a loss, an accident, or some sort of observation that stirs unease and uncertainty, we begin to put names to the shadows. I think it’s this knowledge that creates pre-tour anxiousness, because leaving the familiarity of our little dens feels as if it drastically increases your exposure to that drunk step-dad of the gods: Fortune* (it feels to pretentious in a post already skirting that to say Fortuna - so I won't)   There’s no point in talking about good fortune because it mostly goes unrecognized, and even attempts in earnest at practicing gratitude are shot through with the defects that come from how goddamned hard it is. Touring is an adventure because rootlessness is a kind of vulnerability. You are dependent upon the kindness of people who know the lay of the land better than you. You increase your exposure to the wind and weather. You speed up the process of entropy upon your vital resources. (i.e. miles on a shitty van) This isn’t a bad thing as long as you accept that experience carries with it no judgment. It has that impersonal quality of nature about it. All manner of things: good, bad, easy, and hard are fair game. The odds of experiencing a more even split of good and bad increase depending on certain behaviors. The chances of getting stabbed in the eye decreases if you never leave your house, but increases if you invite the local intravenous drug users knitting guild over for lunch. If you travel 10,000 miles on our nations highways you increase your odds of experiencing the full range of capriciousness they have to offer. Three hours into our next journey the slippery scale of our friend fortune tilted sharply towards equilibrium. For we have experienced our fair share of very good fortune.  I’m just going to say it was a brutal day and leave it at that. We had a show to get to and sometimes that necessity of action is the greatest gift. During the black heart of my divorce the fact that I had to get up every day and be a parent to my kids was at the time incredibly difficult, but upon reflection the very thing that kept me from going under.

We knew we were going to be very late to the show in Albany, and that is a horrible feeling. The Low Beat folks are so sweet, (and thankfully big fans) that they moved back the show and let everyone know what was going on. We are not a band that ever moves with any alacrity so making good time was a struggle. We got there a bit after 11:00 for a 9:30 show. And then the sweetest thing happened. When the crowd saw we were there they poured out onto the sidewalk and began carrying our gear into the club and onto the stage. They were smiling and clapping us on the back. We got set up and went straight to it. And this is a crowd that comes right up to the stage and gets right into it. It’s the kind of instant connection that makes the raising of roofs, the shedding of skins, the dancing on one’s grave possible. I still have no opinion about Albany the city as I’ve not seen anything beyond this one block, but I love the people. I mean there was more than person who still had a two plus hour ahead of them and had to work the next day.

We had been going since 7am and finally got settled in at the hotel around 3:00am. A long day deserving to be put to rest.

Tomorrow is Boston.

*Tyche according to Wiki

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Breaks

I’m not sure what everyone else did during our time off although this is what I’ve surmised from casual conversation. Joe constructed a trestle for the Turkish Roses he’s hoping to display at next years Home and Garden show, John was busy filming moodily lit tubes of toothpaste, Lisa unfortunately was called back to (successfully) defend a key point in her dissertation connecting altruism to vaccines, and Chuck played several rounds of skin tag or melanoma? (Skin tag by a nose! Whoo Hoo!) As for me, other than playing parental taxi cab every day I also found myself at several music festivals.

Please be advised that from here on is just a review of all the bands I saw at three different music festivals. Nothing about Wussy until the Albany post.

I got a ticket hook up around 5:00 on the last day of Bunbury – a really well run rock festival that skewed towards bands I’d never heard of. Sunday night’s headliner was the Flaming Lips, whom I had never seen. Now I like the FL’s as much as the next guy and somewhat less than the two guys behind him, but I was looking forward to the show. And in a nutshell it left me cold. I like spectacle quite a bit and still think confetti is neat. If I had been able to afford tickets I really wanted to take my future step-daughter to Katy Perry and I would’ve loved it I’m sure, with it’s big sets, costume changes, and huge tracts of land. Plus, the Lips played several of my favorite songs. So what went wrong for me? It felt like the Wayne Coyne show. There was no sense of it being a band.  Kind of like a cult of personality vibe with not enough humanity or real connection. The Flaming Lips are supposed to be a band. There were two dudes wearing wigs who looked miserable in them and none of the backing players seemed to be experiencing any observable joy. A band moves together and has distinct personalities that contribute to a greater than the sum situation. Also their keyboard heavy songs just sat there dynamically. I saw Yo La Tengo on the same stage last year and they played several of their long songs that never got boring because they were always growing, always going somewhere. That said, I know several people who had a blast and saw many kids whose eyes were wide with wonder.

The next weekend the same organizers put on an Americana/Country festival at the same location called Buckle Up. I played on Friday in the pouring rain to eight people in ponchos. I stuck around for Marty Stuart and it was delightful. His guitar playing was awesome and melodic with the sweetest tone. He was genial, entertaining, sang like a bird, a total pro.

The next day I ponied up the dough for a ticket because the line-up was epic. I started with Spirit Family Reunion who were energetic and pretty good. It’s been a week and I can’t remember much but have a generally positive feeling. I don’t know if they’re part of the Mumfording of music but over these festivals the energetically strummed, primarily acoustic, hyper-harmonized, somewhat overwrought songwriting of the Mumfordians became fairly ubiquitous. The Buckle Up version however was a bit more old-timey, which is a distinction I guess. Next was Emmylou Harris who is a goddess and for whom I will always be a little in love. Her voice sounds great even if she can’t maybe hold out the notes as long as before. Just like Marty she was a pro, and I stayed for the whole thing. That’s notable because I’m too hyper to stay for all of almost all shows.

Next I watched The Drive-Truckers, who I had missed during their glory days. It was a good rock show, probably improved if it was in a smoky club after dark rather than outside in the daylight. I can’t imagine what it was like when Jason Isbell was with them because Southeastern is my favorite album I heard in the last year. (better than Withered Hand) He’s a hell of a writer.

After them was Allison Kraus and Union Station. Obviously she sings like an angel. Wonderful clear tone and I love hearing her play fiddle too. Still, it was too toothless and suburb-grassy. Plus, her stage banter was so stultifying as to render me insensate. I’m sure she’s a fabulous conversationalist one on one, quite possibly qualified in neo-natal feline CPR, and regularly voluntarily offers skin grafts to burn victims, but damn I finally had to leave when one sequence of words went on so long I had time to travel inwards in my continuing journey to see whether one can actually feel their own fingernails growing. And yes I’m aware of the kettle black here seeing as Wussy is a fairly chatty band onstage, but we’re funny so just get off your high horse.

I wandered off and listened to the Sugarland guy do some solo stuff and then went to hear the Old Crow Medicine Show. It was so mobbed I never saw the whole band at once, just little slivers. It seemed cool and they sure can play and harmonize. High energy show and the crowd loved it. I wouldn’t mind seeing them for real.

Last but not least was Willie Nelson. His voice is timeless. The man is 81 years old and put on an hour and a half show. Which granted I only stayed for an hour of but he is one of those guys I wanted to make sure I saw. I’m not going to claim it’s a riveting show and his harmonica guy got on my nerves, but I really enjoyed his guitar playing and it was cool to hear him play around with his vocal phrasing like a jazz singer. I heard a ton of classics but was tired and went home. See what I meant though? That was a helluva line-up.

The next day I took my children to Forecastle in Louisville. Like Bunbury it’s a music festival on the Ohio River. The reason I spent a king’s ransom on tickets was so my kids could see the Replacements. I don’t make any great claims on my parenting but I am proud that the first big ticket shows my kids have ever seen in this order are: Devo, Iron Maiden (with Alice Cooper), They Might Be Giants, and now the ‘Mats. This will be the first time where they weren’t already in love with the band, but that’s OK, they will be. I’ll try to keep this brief because I feel like this post has veered into tedium more quickly than most.

Sharon Van Etten: I’ve seen her before and I always react the same way. Some songs are gorgeous and blow me away and then some songs are boring standard singer-songwriter affairs.

Brett Dennen: Never heard him before but his music made me angry. First off, he wasn’t wearing shoes. It sounded like he was polishing the rough edges off the Spin Doctors for a new generation.

Trampled By Turtles: I listened to a bit from a Bette Midler and they seemed all right. Mumfordy.

Sun Kil Moon: Came out and called the crowd a bunch of hillbillies and then used the classic douche-bag get out of jail card, “Aw I’m just fucking with ya!” I like his records, or at least the one I have, but having also seen him live before I was dubious. And yes he is the most aggressively boring performer on the planet. I’d rather watch a retirement home’s production of “A Chorus Line,” or a time-lapse movie of a healthy limb slowly turning gangrenous than ever hear him live again.

Jenny Lewis: I don’t know, it was pretty cool. I read an interview once where she came off as a jerk so I had to let that go. I liked her band, she brought out the Watson Twins which was a great idea. I think if you’re a fan she put on a great show. I just fall on the luke-warm side of the fence.

Reignwolf were awesome, ridiculous, and over the top. Heavy blues rock with tons of distortion. The lead dude gave an homage to Johnny Winters that had him singing and playing solo guitar where he would strum with the mic in his hand and eventually moved to the drums all the while still creating a squall with his guitar. It was a needed palette cleanser after all that middle class earnestness.

The Replacements: I know it’s only half of them but when I saw them on the “All Shook Down” tour it was already down to Tommy and Paul, so considering Chris Mars doesn’t play any more this is the best way to hear that wonderful catalog. The ‘Mats rank at number three on my all time favorite band list after Springsteen and the Who. (Superchunk is #4) It was almost a shock to be at a show where I loved every single song and where I jumped up and down and sang along. The fellas they have playing with them are swell and the drummer in particular is probably the best fit of any I’ve seen Paul with. They played a similar set to the other sets of late, which was just fine because it covered their whole career, even the early fast and loud ones. They argued, mocked each other, attempted songs that fell apart, and played most brilliantly. I don’t know if it’s shtick or not but the shoot yourself in the foot culture of the band seems to be entrenched. Part of it was awesome because no one doesn’t give a fuck like PW, but it’s also a little frustrating because I kind of want to see them come out and take everyone’s heads off and triumphantly claim their place as the best rock band out there.

Beck: A good friend of mine said she was having trouble relating to him onstage after reading a book on Scientology. I can see that. For my part he looked worryingly thin and moved like a veteran, much different than the kid feeling his oats on the Odelay tour, which is when I last saw him. Mostly I was just glad he wasn’t focusing on the clinically somnolent material from his last record. It was a big bright spectacle and he played the songs everyone wanted to hear. My kids were tired and wanted to go so I don’t know if I had gotten a few beers in me and snuck up close if it would have achieved booty-shaking levels. I'm thinking yes. I’d recommend seeing the show.

Ok. That was my break. Well my kids and I went to the National Corvette Museum and admired the sinkhole but that’s it.

Next post is Albany.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Lexington, KY

Animals: Seriously? Back in the land of the Mourning Dove and Starling.

Quotes: “It’s like a corpse farted in my face.”  - Chuck has this compulsion where he has to stick his face into any bag of salty snacks and give a good sniff when he first opens it. In this case he was describing the new Blue Cheese Combos, which were frankly disappointing after its promising olfactory beginning. Historically, Fritos are considered to have the worst initial smell profile.

SIARPC: Bill Cosplay

Last show for about two and a-half weeks. I’m super proud of us on a couple of levels. Rene’ built in a few more days off than usual and I think it had a lot to do with some of the positive results. I remember being so spent at the Louisville show, which ended our first West coast tour two years ago, that everything had an unreal quality to it. I think we were situationally insane, like coming out of the jungle after a failed expedition to find the Lost City of George Lucas’ talent. All you’ve dreamed of during the hot nights of malarial fever is the comforting embrace of loved ones and the luxury of polite society with their bed sheets and private bathrooms, but when you emerge you find the world has changed and suddenly women are smoking and exposing their calves willy-nilly while youngsters are spouting incomprehensible nonsense like, “That cancelled stamp’s a choice bit of calico. I’d better iron my shoelaces and take a jorum of skee if I’m gonna eat some cake.” We were a mess.

This time though we felt ok. Tired of course but not unduly so. We're getting a little better at managing our stomachs and getting a little more sleep. Anyway, I think now might be a good time to cast maybe a more objective eye towards the tour. Yes, we’ve got another 10 day jaunt coming up so it’s not over, but this was the big push. As I mentioned, I feel like we were genuinely healthier this time around. The last time out west we had at least two screaming fights that I remember; Chuck and Joe in Portland and Lisa and me after Tucson. I do think it’s to our credit that we are invariably embarrassed after these events and the involved parties usually hug it out the next day. (Although in Chuck and Joe’s case it was more of a “I can’t quit you,” kind of thing) Sometimes it’s a necessary clearing of the air, but mostly it’s just the accumulation of exhaustion and frustration. This tour there were none of those. I mean it wasn’t all Brady Brunch repressed homosexual tensions and possibly illegal Oedipal ‘It’s a Sunshiny Day” shit, but then what is? 

The critical love for Wussy has always been akin to the Pravda's view of a performance by the Bolshoi Ballet on Victory Day. It’s deeply gratifying and we’re over the moon about how people have been responding to Attica, but the reality is that it’s expensive to keep 6 people alive on the road and reviews do not seem to have a huge correlation to butts in the seats. Let me throw some very general West coast numbers out and see where we land. I’d say we spent around $2,500 on merch to take with us. Of course we hopefully get that back so it’s a grey area. Gas on average out West is over $4 a gallon so if we fill up once that’s around $90. I’d say we averaged around $120 on gas daily. The way we run it is that everyone is responsible for their own survival during the day but the band pays for dinner. If it’s fast food poison that’s about $60 but if it’s sit down I’d say $100-$120. Let’s just average it out at $100 a day for food. We tend to sleep in one room unless the deals are super good and we can afford two rooms. Rene’ has all this info so I’m kind of guessing here but let's go with an average of about $80 a night. My gut say it might be higher but we had a few free nights as well so I’ll stick with $80. So let’s just say a bare minimum of $300 goes out every day. If we were out on the road 23 days that’s $6,900 with approximately 7 travel days built in. (A travel day being money out and none in.) We spent another 1,200 bucks to get some more cassette t-shirts printed and shipped out to us. After we paid Rene’ and Shake It for the CD’s we took with us we were still in the black at the end. So that’s awesome. We figured that every band member could be paid $200 to go home with. Of course we still need to have the van serviced so we only paid about half the band at this time.

Ok. Everything about this tour grew positively from the last one. We are on a good trajectory. Well, if we were all 25 years old it would be, but the question lingers as to how many more times can we go out and, for the most part, not make anything near as to what it takes to pay for our absence from the home front. This isn’t Cadillac money, this is the electric bill money. No one in this band is complaining, no one owes us anything, and we have some of the most generous fans imaginable. Dude, there are some wonderful, angelic benefactors for whom without their help we couldn’t tour like this at all. I’m just trying to give some sense of the numbers. No one’s talking about quitting and we are ever hopeful that something will develop that will allow us to pay the bills. I can speak only for myself when I say that there is a very strong possibility that the freedom afforded us by Shake It and the lack of pressure that comes with operating in the dark has allowed us to grow in an unfettered way that is pretty rare these days. Seriously, we make the record we want. Shake It pays the recording bills and we pay them back as the CDs sell. It’s a luxury. I mean we’re all lifers here, no one’s going to stop. I guess this whole little bit is just me trying to do what I said I would do, which is give some idea of the life of being in a band on the road.

Anyway, back to Lexington. I have been complaining the last few days about the scenery east of the Rockies, but I need to let it be said that driving the southerly route from St. Louis to Lexington is beautiful. Southern Indiana and most of Kentucky are densely forested with rolling hills and slow rivers and streams breaking up the green with overhung blue pathways to, well probably feces filled run off, natural gas wells, and discarded white sheets, but what looks like portals to a better place.

We were to play the Green Lantern, a club we’ve been playing since back in the Pete Best days. It has for most of its history been a room with a plywood stage, no air conditioning, and maybe two or three microphones. They’ve fixed it up a bit in that they seem to have some air conditioning now. They treat us well and we had a good-sized crowd. There was only one monitor for the whole band and without a mic for all us talkers it felt a little disconnected. Add into all that the closeness of home and I think it was an OK show. A little short, a little perfunctory, but we tried.
My dear fiance’ came down for the show and we stayed in Lexington that night. It was a perfect way to transition back to the real world. I asked her how we played and whether she could hear a difference between the Fountain Square show we played before we left and this one. She said before we had played the songs but now we seemed to be inside them. I'd say in lieu of words like transcendent, life-affirming, pre-moistening, that’s a pretty good review.

Tomorrow I get to see my kids.

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.”
“Are you OK?”
“I’m fine.”
“Not cold?”
“I’m fine thank you.”
“Good good. “
“So…. How’s Grandpa?” 
“He recently decided that colostomy bags had gotten too expensive so he switched to brown paper bags.”
“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.