Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dallas Death and Disappointment


“Starbucks, Tampons, and Conspiracy.” Chuck summarizing the various band members needs that will be met by Dallas

“(insert rude sound) Fazoli’s!!” John from inside the stall at a Fazoli’s. You could hear Chuck laughing throughout the whole restaurant.

Fauna: I will continue to hope, but I’m guessing that fauna is going to be hard to come by from here on out.

Nice quiet start to the day; paid bills, folded clothes, filed band receipts, ate lunch with my friends, and had some good dog time before the band picked me up to head on to Dallas. The van was eerily silent and I realized they hadn’t gotten to have a break from each other. Still everyone was doing OK.

Rene really wanted to see the assassination site, so before we went to the club we travelled through Dealey Plaza. It went by so fast I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. I said I was going to have to walk back and look at it more closely and everyone in the van said, “Why? We just did it.”  So we made our way to the club, were scolded by valet parking dudes because we were encroaching on their area by about two feet, backed up, parked over a sewer grate and were assaulted by the smell of corpses rotting. Loaded in up two flights of stairs at a club called City Tavern, which was right next to a velvet rope club called Plush. Plush was the kind of club that had a man wearing a tuxedo standing inside a door with no windows and horrible faux fuck if I know statues of women with bared breasts and no nipples. Between that club and the sidewalk patio of the Tavern there were at any given time 20-30 people willfully ignoring, actively enjoying, and tenaciously pursuing their Snookie inspired lifestyles and cigarettes completely encased in the smell of slaughterhouses in August.

I was anxious and crawling out of my skin so I started walking. Dallas is a very clean, new looking city. It had that open feel that I’ve seen so much in these western cities, which were obviously built with an infinite sense of space. I know Dallas has been around a long time because I stumbled across what is presumably a replica of the first post office that marked the beginning of Dallas, but it really looked like everything was less than 20 years old. I came across a decent cemetery and a herd of bronze life-sized long horn cattle before I made it to the Kennedy Memorial. It’s emotional impact lay somewhere between the Vietnam Memorial and a youtube video of a kitten playing with a crab on the beach. In other words I get what they were going for and I think their intention was good, but in the end it’s just a big box with a black slab inside it bearing J.F.K.’s name. I laid down on the slab to take a picture pointed at the sky in an attempt to capture the stated intent of the artist in creating a quiet place inside the city. It didn’t work but as I was sitting up I heard a loud, friendly voice cackling, “Ah ha ha ha, I’ve seen a lot of pictures here but I’ve never seen someone try that!” (It’s possible he was shining me on) It was a surprise because Dallas at that hour on that street was essentially a ghost town. A homeless man came ambling up to me like a sage in a poorly written movie about to dispense wisdom and crystallize the solution to a problem so obvious the audience had known it for an hour, however he just wanted to take me on a tour of the assassination. I thanked him and told him honestly the reason I was walking was to be alone. He was cool with that, I gave him a few bucks, and continued on. I walked past the old courthouse and found myself in Dealey Square. I will confess now that I am not a scholar of the assassination. I’ve seen the same famous pictures everyone else has, but talk of conspiracies has a negative impact on me; like reversed polarity magnets. An argument could be made that people who believe in conspiracies are optimists because they believe humans are far more intelligent than I do, albeit evil and conniving. To pull off most conspiracies requires a cleverness and dedication, not to mention ability to go to the grave carrying a secret of unacknowledged success than I think is typical in most human endeavors. You know what Benjamin Franklin said, “Three people can keep a secret as long as two of them are dead.” That said, I am also in awe of mankind’s innate curiosity and ability to peel back at least some of the mysteries of the universe. I believe that a lot of the hard things we do comes from an inherited shame that we do not live up to our better angels, and that it is our deepest inclination to be generous and kind.  Or as Joe Henry put it, “God only knows that we mean well, and God knows that we just don’t know how.”

To get back to Dealey Square, I kept turning around in circles confused. I couldn’t square the reality with the pictures. Even after sunset on a Wednesday night the area was a hive of activity. I saw a group over by what I assumed was the grassy knoll and went over and eavesdropped as an unofficial tour guide was holding court. I finally figured out which building was the depository and which window the shots came from. I stood in the street and could take in the entire tableau. I figured out what was throwing me. Everything was so much smaller and closer together than what I thought. From the square across the street, to the knoll and on over to the depository seems like it could fit in maybe a football field and a half. The shot from the window is completely make-able. The Clock Tower shootings were from much farther away. You could throw a damn rock from the knoll and hit the motorcade. Guns are loud, I don’t see how someone could have fired a rifle from the there and not had it be completely obvious. Regardless, as I stood in the street I had the same overwhelming feeling of loss and sadness that I felt at the Clocktower; of lives changed and cut-off, of pain and mourning. In the way that alcoholism or abuse can echo through a family for generations after the fact, I feel like these places of violence still send out ripples and that is why, more than just morbid curiosity, people are attracted to them and grow silent in their presence.

As I was standing there another hale, hearty, homeless voice called out to me, but this time rolling without pause into what really happened. He wanted to show me where a bullet had hit but I asked if he could just point out stuff from where we stood. He talked about the changed route, pointed out where the other shooters were and about the missing network footage. After a particular point I said, ”Yeah, but the depository window had the best angle.” He said, “Yeah, you got it! You right.” Then he gave me a high five. I paid him and walked for awhile longer before getting back to the club.

And that’s when the wheels came off. From our first note on stage nothing was right. It’s easy to be a good band when you’re well-rested, you can hear everything, and the audience is adoring. A band makes its bones when faced with adversity and still puts on a good show.  In the end we just didn’t do our jobs and let down the people who’d waited a long time to see us. It’s not the end of the world, but still I feel embarrassed. The feeling is that maybe it kind of shook us up and now we’ll finish the tour strong as opposed to limping home. Here’s hoping.

Tomorrow is Little Rock, another place we have a little making up to do.


  1. Without a bad show it would be hard to tell when you had a good one. I think yer walk alone was a good choice too bad ya kept getting interupted...

  2. I'm really thrilled that you came anyway, and it was nice to meet you and the rest of the band. I'm not sure why the sound was off, but it was not a great venue--I've never seen music the before. Downtown Dallas is pretty douchey, as you noticed. A couple places you might want to consider next time around: the Kessler (in Oak Cliff), the Loft (south of downtown), Sons of Hermann Hall (Deep Ellum), or (as one of the other fans mentioned after the show when Lisa you guys were breaking down the stage) one of the clubs in Denton, about 30 miles north (college town with a good music scene). But THANK YOU! for coming here.

  3. First, thanks for the blog. It is great reading and fascinating to get such an honest take on what it is like being on the road.

    Second, are you serious?? Great bands never have an off night? That's just wrong. I've even seen great band that had a bad night because they didn't give a shit, and I'm quite sure that isn't the case with Wussy. Bad sound, weird venue, exhausted band-members, things happen. If you are playing for real you are going to respond to your circumstances. I've also seen plenty of bands, even very good ones, who were playing on a full tank to an enthusiastic crowd and just couldn't quite get there live. When you guys played Seattle a couple of weeks ago expectations were very high for the show, great press and radio coverage, a lot of people came out for it, and you could very well have been "just fine." Instead, you completely killed. It was absolutely one of the greatest straight-up rock shows any of us had seen in a long while. Personally, I'd say that rising to the occasion like that is a better measure of a great band than what happens on the inevitable off nights.

    Its obviously been a demanding month. I hope you are getting home soon for some good rest with your family. Don't be so damn hard on yourself.

  4. I really appreciate the sentiment and I agree. We don't have to be perfect or inspired every night. And everyone has bad days on the job. Several days later we're not still talking about it. Everyone's moved on. When you're onstage though some things are not cool and we did several of them that night. I think it's OK to be a little sheepish after nights like that too. It's all cool though, we learned a lot on this tour from beginning to end.