Friday, August 8, 2014


Animals: We’ve been in cities, so C.H.U.D.’S maybe?

Quotes: I’ll be honest. I’ve pretty much had my headphones in. It’s as close to alone time as I can get. That said, if you say Hotlanta unironically, we are not going to be friends. I think we'll both be fine with that. Not everyone has to be friends with everyone.

SIARPC: Steve Glutenberg*

I woke up early because it would be a crime to come all this way and not get a beignet and some hot chocolate. All great cultures throughout history have produced some version of fried dough and chocolate. Of course this being Saturday I stood in line for well over a half hour. It was like a mini epic journey - the doubt, the sacrifice, the boredom, the rage against all those who would stand in your way. But much like the moment when Liv Tyler shakes down her hair in slow motion, removes her elf ears, and smiles at you in a gentle knowing way before closing the curtains, or the long wait before someone finally made a T-2/Golem** mash-up of them melting in molten stuff, it was totally worth it. And then back in the van for a seven-hour ride to Atlanta. Driving over Lake Pontchartrain is one of my favorite things. The bridge goes on forever. We looked it up and the average depth is only 12-14 feet, which is useful information if you’re planning on practicing your cliff diving or planning to dump a body. (you shouldn’t – there are better places for both)

I wrote the whole time because I really want to wrap up the blog before I get home. As soon as I can I have to switch gears and get ready for the school year. I’m so far behind in my lesson planning it’s been giving me nightmares almost nightly. Out of Louisiana, quickly across just the tip of Mississippi, up through Alabama, and into Georgia. Pretty much the whole band’s nursing their stomachs. I swear I wouldn’t be surprised if we actually had some small bug going through the van. I’ve felt good so rarely this tour I’m quite looking forward to the tour amnesia that will wipe away all the inconveniences both large and small. It’ll be a miracle if we even break even on this leg of the tour. If we do it’ll be almost exclusively credited to the Baltimore house show. It’s a learning process, and everywhere we’ve gone there’s been at least somebody excited to see us. It might not be sustainable but it is amazing to me that in some small way we’ve reached into the corners of this huge country. And even though everyone has given up earnings or time with loved ones, for me to know that I can say to myself that I have toured the U.S. in a rock band is very meaningful for me. There are not that many unbroken threads one can trace back to 10th grade but this is one. As with every time we’ve gone out my experience is that the vast majority of people we come in contact with are kind and accommodating. I think people like to help others out for the most part. John has the admirable ability to quickly circumvent the little social walls that people just naturally have up in public places. They tend to look startled at first but his goofy-ass smile almost always assures them they are in on the joke and not the butt of it. I mean sometimes they are but it is a good smile. The point is people are a hell of a lot funnier and open if you can somehow step out of the roles assigned by work or station. Especially if the fear of, I don’t know, something bad happening I guess, is quickly allayed. It’s one of the joys of talking to people after shows. You’ve shared something communal and for a minute that is enough.

I want to reiterate that the New Orleans show ended up lovely, but we have an ego. We like to play on stages with monitors and lights, and we like to have people show up. The club we were playing in Atlanta had a reputation as being a place where the cops were called regularly in the ‘90s, but it has different owners now and is more of an NPR looking venue with chairs and Brie on the menu. The baked Pimento rounds were actually better. It had a nice red stage that was about one person too small, but there was a good-sized crowd, the sound guy was awesome, and we got to finish the tour on a high note. The staff was great and they blasted Prince the whole time we were breaking down (non-specific on purpose). Prince should be played after, and possibly during, every show.

Chuck, Lisa and I were to be interviewed on camera by a guy named Vic who has a video blog. So chairs were set up onstage after we tore down, and a guy swung a boom mic back and forth. I love this kind of shit because it’s like improv night. You get to think on your feet. Anyway we sat up there like lumps, Chuck looking glum because that’s how they taught him to do it in the ’90’s, Lisa looking glum until she felt a little more comfortable and loosened up, and me lying like a rug.

We then went back to our hotel which should be it’s own TV show. It was a madhouse. There were people making out in the business center, gender confusion, prostitute/not prostitute confusion on our part, vomit in the hallway and pubes in every corner of the bathroom. (not ours – bald eagles all ‘round for this band)

And that was that. Eight hours back to Ohio. We can’t wait to get away from each other but we don’t hate each other either. I think we’re playing better than ever and it is a joy. We’ll see what happens next. Speculating doesn’t mean shit so I’m not going to worry about it.

*Or the Glutenberg Free Bible

** They have haven’t they?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

New Orleans Part Two

By the time I got to Canal Street the idea of a foot massage had grown into a longing. A longing to have my feet massaged. There’s a lot of massage happening in this city so my odds were not bad. But first I had to walk around a huge group gathered in front of the courthouse. It was a somber protest, not silent but not the kind of protest with bullhorns and chants. They were protesting the military actions of Israel in the Gaza. As I went into the street to get by, I looked down and saw a little girl holding a sign that said, “Is this the face of a terrorist?” I’m not an idiot. I try to stay somewhat current in world events. I try to get my information from multiple sources and all that, but I have not been able to sort through the tangled history and vested viewpoints in such a way as to figure any of that conflict out. Manipulation or not that little girl silently asking that question hit me like punch in the gut.

However, in this land of plenty the siren song of a middle-aged Asian man shouting, “Massage. You? Massage. Whole Body!” came to my ears like the sound of a mother’s voice lifting above the crowd to find the panicky lost child at the mall.  $22 for a 20 minute foot massage. I had just enough time before we had to leave for the show. The business was a large rectangular room open to the sidewalk, with beds in rows like a TB ward. He led me back and pointed to where I should lay down. A young woman came over to remove the layer of shame from my feet before getting to work bringing relief. As soon as I closed my eyes I felt a hand begin to rub my shoulders and the cackling voice of the crone I had recently seen reading on the couch:
“Shoulder massage?”
“What? I just asked for the foot massage.”
“Hmmm… shoulder, neck?”
“No, just the 20 minute foot massage.”
“20 minute too short. 30 minute. Hour much better.”
“I barely have time for the 20.
”Whole body?” 
“No, no thank you.”

Jesus, what have I walked into? Instead of the typical soothing sounds of pan flutes one hears at a spa, my 20 minutes settled into a rhythm of heavy sighs from the person rubbing my feet, occasional startling bursts of angry sounding Chinese conversation, and the desultory monotone of the old man back at his post, “Massage? You! Massage. Whole Body?” It helped a little.

We were playing a bar called the Circle Bar located on some circle with a large statue.* We were told the statue was facing North because you can never turn your back on a Yankee. A friend of mine had heard that on a tour. That tour stuff is big business around here. In certain parts of the Quarter there’s a tour on every block. As evening draws close and white legs in short pants begin to glow, the clarion call of hucksters everywhere rings out, “It’s a known historical fact!” And it might be.

We walked into the club and our hearts sank. It was a beautiful old place that was basically a hallway containing the bar and a little sitting room off to one side where we were to play. It was tiny, there were no monitors and tables everywhere. Keep in mind we were still a little raw from not just the night before, but really everything after Baltimore. We knew going in that we would be grinding it out a little more on this leg. The Southeast and Delta are pretty far away and for all intents and purposes this was the first time we’d played most of these towns. We’d been averaging about 20 people a night. Chapel Hill, Jacksonville, and Mobile added together was half of Boston which was half of Seattle. Whiny or not I think our collective shoulders drooped a little. And then the guy told us there were only three working mic stands. Ok, not awesome but no big deal. A few minutes later he looked up sheepishly and said, “I’ve got bad news. We’ve only got two working mics.” And when we went to test the two only one was really working. At this stage of the game Chuck lost it. Sort of. He was pissed and stated if only one mic was working we weren’t playing. Later on he felt bad because he acted like an asshole. And Rene’ scolded him for yelling in front of the waiting audience. I don’t know about all that, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to book bands without a sound system. Lisa, in a mood of diplomacy (she and Chuck frequently counter-balance each other) asked the audience if anyone had a mic. In the way of things a nice man named Rob Schafer lived up the street and had one at home. They managed to mostly get all three mics working (we usually have four) and we sallied forth hoping we could play quietly enough to not kill everyone but still sound like a rock band.** We had our southern 20-25 people show up, but they were so joyful and sweet they erased our misgivings. And while I don’t think it sounded at all awesome it was ok, and we played a nice, healing set. Afterwards we talked to a bunch of people including a group of maybe 8 guys from the same unit down in NOLA to celebrate one of their own retiring. They’d scheduled their trip around our show and were so excited. Even the self-absorbed has to be touched by that.

Tomorrow is Atlanta.

*I know I’m getting lax with details. I started walking around the statue to find out its name, but there was guy drinking and it seemed assured that he would talk to me. So I turned around and went back to the club. Sorry, some nights I’m braver than others.

*Someone asked why don’t bring our own equipment, but we really just don’t have the room in the van.

New Orleans Part One

Animals: Nope

Quotes: “Hardees should have a Robin Thickburger with a douchebag in it.”

SIARPC: Sasquatchemo

Woke up and went straight back to the Stray Dog Hash House and then back to the antique mall. I figured since we had the awesome city of New Orleans ahead of us we’d get on the road quickly, but that was erroneous. Doesn’t someone holy say that expectations lead to suffering? Well, expectations of timely departures has certainly never made me any happier. So I went walking. I found the Old City Cemetery where they had buried victims of Yellow Fever. I think this is a good time to talk about the architecture and culture of the city. In a nutshell it’s very similar to New Orleans. Lots of balconies atop beautiful wrought-iron  backed by weathered brick buildings. The feel of French influence although I don’t know if that’s actually accurate. I was told that there is an ongoing disagreement between Mobile and NOLA about who really started the Mardi Gras celebrations. Regardless they take it seriously in Mobile too. It’s seems a wonderful, quiet town, like the kind of town if someday I wanted to be the next John Grisham or Flannery O’Connor, I’d spend my winters there sitting in the parks, practicing my declarative sentences while wearing a slouch hat and plaid pants. I think I would hate to be there during the beads and frat bullshit that follows Mardi Gras like a plague.

So back to the cemetery. There were lots of raised graves and a few tombs once again reminiscent of New Orleans. It was smaller, humbler in scale, and in such a state of gentle but very real decline that what with the old, heavy, flowering trees and overgrown grass, it felt more gothic than the big touristy cemeteries down the coast. I was the only one there other than the man with a rolling suitcase relieving himself off in the corner. I kept walking, my feet hurting so much that I would go from bench to bench just to give them some relief. I decided to go into the huge Catholic Church called saint something or other, right next to one of the innumerable squares that pop up every couple of blocks in Mobile.* I don't know, I'm sure it's on the internet. It was just stunning inside, the ceiling a beautiful red and gold pattern, really outstanding stained glass windows, and a tasteful floating touchdown Jesus above the altar. I sat in the cool gloom and prayed for the strength to accept that which I cannot hurry.

I was able to squeeze in a quick visit to the Center for the Living Arts. A small, apparently non-collecting museum with just a few high-ceilinged rooms that they use for big-scale exhibits. It only took about ten minutes to go through but the exhibits were cool and modern.

And then we were off on the fairly short drive to NOLA. On the way we spent a few minutes at the John C. Stennis Space Center – looked at some rocket engines and bought some souvenirs. I mention this not because you need to know everything we did but because I did not know they did rocket testing there, or that there was space center. I mean that’s like finding out you have a nipple on your back that produces enough force to reach escape velocity. And candy.

I’m starting to feel self-conscious that I’m going into an excruciating level of detail because I’ve got 15 hours riding in the van spread over two days.  I apologize. I’m my own worst editor. I’m not going to stop mind you, I just feel bad about it.

We got to the city around 5:00 and the meat eaters, i.e. everyone else, were going to some fancy place to get charred oysters, broiled bivalves, and macerated mollusks. I shook my head sadly and thought to myself with my mind of all the mercury they’d be ingesting. No one likes the bearer of bad news however, so we’ll just let them assume the dementia and muscular weakness had many contributing factors. New Orleans remains one of the best food cities in the world for everyone but vegetarians. I had found a place that served veggie red beans and rice in the French Market, so I strapped on my goddamned Teva’s and started walk the mile and a half to the restaurant. Which closed 15 minutes before I got there. Yeah, the French Market closes at 6:00, so fuck me pretty much. While shuffling along in as defeated a pose as one can have on a beautiful evening in New Orleans, I stumbled upon the 14th Annual Satchmo Summer Fest and saw that it was free, and that the Dirty Dozen Brass Band was about to go on. Boom. A block away I found that savior of the righteous, a Mediterranean restaurant. Not exactly classic NOLA fare but well done. Plus, all the employees were wearing “Free Pakistan” shirts that said, “We Stand With Gaza” on the back, which seemed like an unusually political stance for a business in the tourist district. I saw two of them running in and out of the restaurant and not seemingly engaged in restaurant activity when I saw they were either selling or giving away the same t-shirts from out of a mini-van parked out front. The van can be a bubble no doubt. It's too easy to forget there's a real world going on outside of it.

The DDBB were phenomenal. I sat on a curb, drank an Abita, watched people dance and hang on the fence so they could see the band, the older locals in their lawn chairs eating plates with a mess of greens and beans on it, and just felt pretty damned grateful. I started the long walk back and wondered about the balance New Orleans has to strike between the money and energy all the visitors bring with the sheer numbers of them packed into a relatively small space, and all the weekend warriors who treat it like the first floor of their frat house. There’s got to be a little bittersweetness thrown in there, because there really is a kind of magic in the light down there. It's a town like no other.

*It’s one of the town’s best features.

Mobile Part One

Today is a travel day, so I only really remember the bookends. I-10 through the panhandle has trees so it’s not unpretty, but its unvarying terrain renders it pretty unmemorable. Still, another seven hour day in the van. We saw none of the depressing insanity the Top Gear crew saw on their journey through the deep South, but then we had been warned by locals the night before to stay on the highway and stop only in the bigger towns, which we did.

Upon reflection I don’t think we thrive on days without a show to focus us, because once again this is where, in the admittedly minor way Wussy has, the wheels started to come off. It’s also true that we had all reached a certain level of weariness. Anyway, the night before a small schism had arisen as to what we should do this day. Certain factions really, really wanted to go to the beach, particularly Pensacola, while others thought we should go straight on through to Mobile and then they could go to a beach. After the show we went to our hotel in Jacksonville, which was a Radisson, where they have Sleep Number beds. * Apparently, Lisa’s bed got over-filled because she woke up barely able to move. She said she felt like she had been hit in the back with a baseball bat. So when she rolled out of bed and began to crawl across the floor like the one green army man who wasn’t supposed to stand, and thus in a small way is the only one that doesn’t piss you off, I, though not without sympathy, saw how this morning was going to go and took the steps to the lobby where I intended to stay until departure. You can think me an asshole, that’s fine, but I’m not new either and any help I could offer was still several hours away. When the last prisoner of rocknroll queued up for the van I went upstairs, quickly gathered my things, and we trundled off to Mobile.

We got in around dinner time, recipient of two free rooms from the generous and refined Mssr. Cam. The hotel, classic in that faded belle way the South does better than anywhere, had once played host to Bob Hope, and Elvis. We went to a small restaurant called the Mediterranean Sandwich Company, which would be excellent in any city. Unfortunately, shortly after dinner while walking around with John and Joe, I was stricken by a cataclysmic case of butt barf. I felt like hell but also was pissed that I was sick on a night off in a town I’d never been in. So in the first of a series of poor decisions, and after a brief recuperation, the three of us decided to go out for drinks at what would appear to be the chi-chi restaurant in town, called the Noble South. I went to put on pants because I believe in elegance, and with a sinking feeling realized I had left my shoes in the Jacksonville hotel. The downside of hiding out in the lobby and then hurriedly packing is this. Or maybe it’s Karma. I say let’s not bring large spiritual cycles into a forgotten pair of shoes. Not even Hemmingway’s baby shoes. The problem is that my orthotic insoles (The fruit of a decade wearing ill-fitting Doc Martins I believe. Damn you the ‘90’s!) were in them so I couldn’t even wear my jogging shoes. This is a big problem because I have very strict rules about footwear on the stage. Bare feet are unacceptable, but in some ways sandals, or God forbid Birckenstocks, are even worse. And sandals are all I have now. In the back of my mind I’m thinking we may have to cancel the show, but it isn’t until tomorrow so I wear my fucking Teva’s to the cool kids restaurant.

And it was weird because as we sat at the bar we noticed that the patrons of the restaurant possessed the uniformity of a WPA reforestation project. All of them were white women in their late twenties, had long straight hair, and wore pastels. There were two male JC Penny catalog models at one table, otherwise the only other men were three bald guys eating dinner and acting in a dignifiedly non-lecherous manner at the bar. Anyway, because I was doing the exact opposite of what my body required I made a concession and got fancy cocktails that seemed restorative. Such as the French 76, which contained Kettle One, lemon, St. Germain, Champagne, and a twist. It was delicious and well worth the mockery. Then I followed it with a Pimm’s Cup, which has Ginger Beer in it and thus is designed to be soothing. 

* Sleep Number Beds suck. I’m not sure the technology but it feels as if there is a big bladder inside that fills up with air depending on how long you press the up button. Thus explaining Lisa’s assertion that she felt like she was sleeping on a turtle’s back. If you don’t fill it up you get swallowed in the sinkhole. Might as well just buy a damn waterbed.

Mobile Part Two

Animals: Loggerhead Shrikes, (I really hope I’m not just using wishful thinking to turn Mockingbirds into Shrikes, because this would be a life-bird for me) Cattle Egrets, Alligator, (I tried to get him to hunt me but I think he knew I was on to him)

Quotes: “It’s a Ramen War!!” (You’ll see in a minute)

SIARPC: Handicaps Hot Fries (I’m sorry)

While driving into Mobile the previous evening I had spied with my George Smiley eye an enormous battleship. Turns out there is a huge museum where you can tour the USS Alabama and the USS Drum, which is a WWII sub. I was intrigued, but woke up feeling achy and nauseous, so the trots weren’t a fluke. The beach-goers asked if I wanted to join them, and I had really been wanting to swim in the ocean, but just didn’t feel up to it. Chuck and John had discovered a second amazing Mobile restaurant called the Stray Dog Hash House. What a little miracle, seemingly run solely by a husband and wife. He, a rounded middle-aged white guy, and she a diminutive Japanese woman who spoke very little English. They had an easy give and take that made being in their presence a quiet delight, like going over to the friend’s house where the parents actually like each other. She took the orders and it was a comedy of pointing, misunderstandings, relieved smiles, and uncertainty. The man cooked and it was perfect. By which I mean the food tasted the way breakfast diner food should taste - creamy grits, dense biscuits, fresh hash browns, all of that. Oh, and it was inexplicably decorated in a western theme, with movie posters from the  classics of the genre that obviously came from the printer sitting on the counter. I heard the theme to both Davy Crockett as well as Daniel Boone while there.

We met Chuck at an antique mall he had discovered, and it was there he found for me the swankiest, most Billy Dee Williams stylish shoes that almost sort of fit, I had ever dared to wear. The show it seems, would go on.

Joe decided to bail on going to the museum and I made the decision I always knew I would, which was that aching like the flu (it wasn’t the flu) I’d go anyway. I took a cab out there and spent several hours finding out what the guts of a battleship look like. I’m not going to go through the tour, I’ll just say it is endlessly fascinating to see how the sailors lived, and all the solutions, deadly or otherwise, to the problems faced with keeping 2,500 souls alive in a tin can at a time of war. The first grown-up books I read when I was a kid were the Alistair MacClean spy novels like, “The Guns of Navarone,” and “Where Eagles Dare.” I’ve been imagining places like this for a long time. The USS Drum was of course a much shorter tour but full of so many cool dials, switches, levers and ladders, I was very satisfied. I’m not sure the sub movies adequately convey the claustrophobia of those spaces.

Dead on my feet I called the cab company to carry me the 1.9 miles back to the hotel. I couldn’t walk it because the journey involved a tunnel under water. One hour and 28 fucking minutes, and three calls later they finally picked me up. Cab service in Mobile is more conceptual than practical. I couldn’t be picked up by the van because they were running very late returning from the beach. Between the two groups we were about an hour late for load-in. Joe, and in particular Chuck were pissed and had a right to be.

It was a super cool club. There was a plaque on the outside wall (Mobile loves its plaques) stating that the man who designed the Confederate Flag had lived there, and the bartender said they had made the uniforms there as well. On a personal level I have what might be an unreasonable level of impatience with the glorification of the Confederacy. The attempted revisionism painting the secession as a state’s rights issues is bullshit. Slavery as a means to make money for the owners is pretty much it. It was an attempt to break apart the Union so as to continue an act that is, was, and always will be morally repugnant. So your portraits of Jefferson Davis hanging (and yet never even tried for treason) in public buildings, your plaques discussing the designer of the symbol of institutionalized racism is inappropriate to say the least. This doesn’t mean I don’t have compassion for the foot soldiers who were told to defend their homes. However, up to ¾ of a million people died in an effort to preserve evil, so propagating this glorified version does nothing to unify a still divided country and impedes us from moving towards becoming the country that Lincoln envisioned for us.

Anyway, we loaded-in in a very disgruntled fashion and then retreated to our corners. The opening band was stunning. They’re from Japan and were a trio wearing matching outfits that looked like what my kids Tai Kwan Do instructor’s uniforms look like. The lead singer/guitar player had somehow attached a mic stand directly to the back of his guitar so he could run around anywhere. Their style was a continually surprising hodge-podge that left Joe and I shaking our heads almost every song. The best part was an insane story that he told in several parts throughout the set involving Ramen noodles. It started out with Ramen being somehow culturally insensitive, then the next part saw the development of the Anti-Ramen Society claiming that Ramen caused ADD and cancer. However, there are another group of people called the Ramen Heroes who stand up for Ramen. The big finish came when he had us chanting, “It’s a Ramen War!!” during the song of the same name. By this time he had stripped down to a skimpy yellow pair of what he called Japanese underwear.

And then it was our turn. At this stage there were only three people in the audience who had come to see us. I will say by the end of the set we had attracted a crowd of maybe 15 people but the mood was set. The sound guy had trouble getting feedback out of the monitor, possibly because we didn’t have a soundcheck due to our late arrival, who knows? Oddly enough I could hear well enough, but the people in the center could hear nothing but a roar. As we started “Yellow Cotton Dress” Joe began to express his deepest feelings about the evening via his drums, causing us all to stop and turn around. Chuck knocked over his cymbal and verbally expressed his feelings, not on Joe’s feelings per se, but more on the manner in which he chose to display them. We then started the song over and finished the set like Sunday dinner at Big Daddy Pollitt’s house. As soon as we ended Lisa then expressed her feelings in a variety of energetic ways. I’m a non-confrontationalist by nature so this is not particularly comfortable for me. However, my approach has not always been beneficial to solving problems in my life, and I’ll say this, all the pent up frustrations of the last two days was pretty much swept away by this kerfuffle. I went out and talked to the audience while gear was still flying and found out how much they really had enjoyed the show. One gentleman thanked us for “giving it our all” despite the low attendance. It’s a funny thing, Chuck has been reading, “The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones” while on tour and he was telling me about how Brian Jones had trouble even showing up to gigs, guns were regularly pulled and all kinds of epic shit, so while hopefully rare, our outbursts are pretty small by comparison. Everyone had made up before we left, for the most part, and I was a walking corpse.

My new shoes caused crippling pain but looked fine.

Tomorrow is New Orleans.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Jacksonville FLA

Animals: Great Egrets

Quotes: “It’s not called lyrics and roll.”

SIARPC: Edith Pilaf

The drive to Jacksonville was uneventful excepting I’ve never seen so many cops pulling people over on any other stretch of highway. I found myself feeling kind of angry the whole time we were in South Carolina, and I realized that I’m still pissed about that whole Fort Sumter thing. Has South Carolina ever been on the right side of history?

It’s a bit of a hike, around 7 hours, so we went straight to the club upon arrival. The club was this super cool place that would do very well transplanted to Cinncinati, but in this case was right downtown surrounded by tall, darkened buildings and an aura of emptiness missing only Ennio Morricone and tumbleweeds to be complete. When I say emptiness I mean I went for a walk and saw two people in the first 15 minutes and then another two on the way back. I’m sure it’s bustling during the day, it felt like the business not entertainment district. Still, there was a badass burrito place a block away and the club was doing decent business for a Tuesday night.

We’ve never played Florida before and that is the tale of this leg of the tour. New markets for a band like ours means smaller crowds at the shows than in places we’ve been hitting regularly, or at least have significant airplay. In this case though, even with the lowered expectations of a Tuesday night in a new region, a full half of the crowd (we asked) had driven from other cities for the only chance to see us within loogie distance. My corner of the stage was so fucking hot I drank mine, Chuck's, and part of Lisa’s water. They were in the narrow and well-defined golden stream of the air conditioner so it was OK. It was our first show without an encore but everyone seemed OK with that, band and audience alike. Everyone in the band had seemed to hit the weariness wall. On the drive to the hotel the van was silent. That never happens. Thank God Chuck still had the Whoopee cushion I had gotten him in that city where I got him the whoopee cushion because after a few minutes of silence a rip roaring fart sound was healing indeed.

Tomorrow is a drive day.

Chapel Hill

Animals: American Toad, Minnows, Carolina Chickadee

Quotes: “Any of you coeds like prospectors?”

“You must have a mirror in your pocket ‘cause I can see me in your pants.”

SIARPC: Christopher Plummet

With only a four hour drive to Chapel Hill we didn’t exactly have to hoof it. Joe and I got to sleep in the living room, which meant we were up with the earliest risers. Rich Tarbell is the man who made our "North Sea Girls" video, and it was at his and Polly’s house we were staying. On our first tour Rich got us a much needed Sunday show at the Mellow Mushroom in Charlotte (well, much needed in the financial sense) and a free hotel room. So we’ve known them a long time. Plus, they have a black lab named Jessie who was like one of those animals they take to hospital wards to cheer up the children. He would happily lick your face and lean up against you forever if you wanted. Both John and Lisa took him on separate walks in the woods in the morning. I went on a wonderful two-hour walk sans dog myself. Back when I was crazier than I am now I used to do this calming visualization exercise where I pictured myself in woods just like these. Walking in the woods by myself is about as powerful as the Zoloft. So it was a good walk with all those somewhat embarrassing words like dappled and babbling being applicable. Plus, I kept my streak of not finding a dead body unbroken. So that’s good. I saw an empty Trojan wrapper but since I don’t consider a wasted seed receptacle a tool of mass murder I’m not counting it.*

A goodly portion of the band were in the mood to just stay put in a comfortable house but I wasn’t. So Rich took Joe and I to the big pedestrian mall in downtown Charlotte. It was pretty and pretty upscale, but I do have one recommendation. There’s a vintage shop owned by a guy named Ike, who is one of those larger than life characters that sometimes I fear will disappear entirely from the American landscape. He was apparently in several non-speaking scenes in the Spielberg “Lincoln” movie, but when you’re in his shop he’ll regale you with the back story of every item in there, and say things like, “Oh you think that’s cool, come look at this! You’ll love it.” And I did.

We were playing the Cave, Chapel Hill’s oldest bar and a place I love. No one else in the band is quite as fond of it as I am, but seriously, the walls and ceiling are completely plaster covered chicken wire, and painted to look like you’re in an actual cave. There’s no phone service, it’s dank and dark. We were the only band and there was a simmering level of crankiness in the band, but for some reason I was feeling reasonably good for the first time this tour. I bought a Superchunk “Clambake” CD, a three volume set of murder and disaster songs from the 20’s and 30’s, as well as a DVD with every Iron Maiden video ever made, at the wonderful store across the street. Ate delightful Mediterranean food with Joe and John while wondering if anyone was going to show up. And they did. I mean 20 people did, but it’s a small enough club that it felt like a victory regardless. And Jerry showed up. He’s a very sweet elderly man who was at the show eight years ago when only five people showed up. He always seems to have a bodice-ripper paperback with him and does this dance with his hands on songs he likes. We love Jerry.

Anyway, I thought the show went well. Actually for me it was the best one of the whole summer from a playing standpoint. Even though we only had vocal mics I could hear everyone in the band perfectly, and it felt like I could lock in with them all in a way that some nights seems like a distant flickering impossibility. I’m hoping it was a crack in the door to playing the way I want to. Now for Joe the show sucked because he didn’t have a monitor and couldn’t hear shit. Chuck said a lot of the same things after the LA show, in that he thought we were incredibly locked in together, but for me that show felt typical.

And now for the requisite oddness. A few songs into the set a woman wearing huge headphones and wearing a t-shirt that said, “Art Images Live” on it started pulling pencils out of her red apron, and feverishly sketching us. She did this the entire set. Afterwards I ran into her at the back door and she said that John had given her some money. She then launched into her spiel about how she had suffered several disabilities but that the act of drawing had pulled her out of the worst of it. When I ask her what disabilities she got kind of vague but whatever. She talked about how she is trying to get grants for her live sketching project and that she never asks for money but if her project keeps growing she might need to get a car because right now she walks everywhere. She showed me the Wussy sketches and they were OK, just strange enough to be notable. So I gave her $4 and went to the band to get more. They looked at me like I was insane so I gave her $5 more. They gave me some shit saying it was a scam and why did I get taken in. I mean I know they’re right and I’m not new. Maybe I’m getting to the age where my children have to worry about me giving all my money to people who promise me a new roof but need the money upfront. Still, here’s what it comes down to with hopefully only a skosh of rationalization going on, but she was obviously wired differently. She was incredibly driven and it was a hell of a hustle. I mean she drew for nearly an hour. $12 (mine and John’s $3) seems like an OK payout even if we didn’t actually ask for the service.

Oh, and the Cave had an AC/DC pinball machine that played the hits like a juke box, had a bell you could toll, a moving train, and a working cannon. I’ve finally found a pinball machine I love more than Earthshaker.

Tomorrow is Jacksonville.

*As posted by Stephen - "Yes masturbation is Murder. But the only person it murders is your soul."

Thursday, July 31, 2014

What To Do in Baltimore

Animal: Gopher – So Lisa pointed out a rather large groundhog and Chuck said, “No it’s a Gopher.” “That's the same thing.” “No it Goddamned well isn’t.” Lisa and I said he was full of shit, which made him really mad. Woodchucks were brought into it. Chuck’s pedigree as a mammalian expert was discussed. (Chuck and Tommy Gillis won the Ohio State mammal identification contest two years in a row in high school – beating out the college kids) So I’d say it was a successful conversation.

Quotes: Hillbilly Hit Parade – If we ever have a greatest hits.

SIARPC: Leo Crotch Cheese

It’s Sunday and pretty much a day off, as we only it's only a three-hour drive to Charlotte, where we were spending another night fouling the nest of a generous friend. We started out the day over-staying our welcome at what is frankly a beautiful house in a beautiful neighborhood somewhere around Baltimore. One of the benefits of house shows is that we usually get to stay at the house, eat real food, and have our own beds. Sitting in some comfy Adirondack chairs the night before we were informed that the neighborhood had been designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, or at the very least someone in his firm. Olmsted is somewhat arguably considered the father of modern landscape architecture, with his most famous achievements being Central Park and Prospect Park, as well as Elm Park in Worcester MA ,and the Emerald Necklace parks in Boston. The coolest part was that all the houses, at least in this particular section of the neighborhood, all backed up against, and thus enclosed an oval shaped common area, almost like a miniature town green. Each house had it’s own small backyard with steps leading down to the common. I have no idea if Olmsted had anything to do with the houses but they were gorgeous, mostly a fine stucco in lots of muted browns. One house, at the far end of the common was actually curved. I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if looking down upon the neighborhood from the air, that the streets were organized in a vaguely concentric circular pattern like a very easy maze. Either way, the streets feel like they were designed to somehow slow down time, giving it the feeling of quiet and peacefulness as opposed to most modern subdivisions where everything sucks.*

Anyway, my morning walk didn’t kill enough time for everybody, by which I mean Lisa, to be ready so I’d say it was around two before we left. Our destination was a band favorite. For Chuck, Lisa, and I, it was our third tour visit to the American Visionary Museum. It’s a place dedicated to outsider art and every time I go back it gets better and better. There’s a whole room devoted to repetitive pattern art by people with OCD. It’s mostly temporary exhibits with a small permanent collection. My clear favorite this time was a room that was completely converted into another world – a  weird Christmasy world with an enormous pink spaceship that had a constantly rotating turret with children’s plastic horses on top. The whole spaceship was sitting upon a row of pink skulls. On either side were bizarre snowmen, including one that was a Cyclops holding a deer leg with hoof intact. On the other side of the room was an enormous Santa with what looked like an exposed brain being pulled by all white reindeer with toilet bodies. There were weird nutcrackers with clear plastic skulls for heads, and some stockings where the artist had presumably taken latex gloves, filled them with resin and things like plastic eyeballs or cicadas.

The gift shop is not ridiculously expensive and has some decent, affordable art from lots of folk artists. I love pretty much all museums but I walk out of this one actually inspired and ready to get to work.

We ate a fancyish dinner in Little Italy where they wisely put us all by ourselves in a back room. After that we drove to Charlotte where we met Jessie, the black lab for whom immediate and true love is not only possible but inevitable. But more about him tomorrow.

Tomorrow is Chapel Hill.

* Also, there is a huge amount of silica in the soil and rocks. I don’t know if this is typical for the region, but it made the ground all sparkly. Like maybe in ancient times a huge armada of fairies were attacked, killed, their heads put on little toothpick sized pikes, and their wings ground into dust. Presumably by Republicans.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Animals: Osprey

Quotes: “I got gathered head.” – Chuck swears that this is what his mother called an ear infection. Lisa and I said he was full of shit, which made him mad. So I’d say it was a successful conversation.

SIARPC: The Blair Underwood Project

It’s about a 7-hour drive from Boston to Baltimore. We seem to have slipped back into the bad habit of not really getting on the road when we should. And even with it being a Saturday, travelling the eastern corridor is a halting process. So we were late again. We were revisiting another spot from the spring break leg, the house known as Club 603. While Chuck and I were napping, I with my head on his lap and he gently rubbing my lower back in that fatherly way he has, a plan was hatched. The predicted reactions to this plan were as follows: I would be thrilled and Chuck would be horrified. They were accurate. The plan was to place a bunch of songs in a bowl, and as long as three of us knew the song it was fair game, and let the audience pick our set. I have a short attention span and would prefer our set to change nightly. Also, I truly love the high wire act that comes from putting yourself out there a little ways, the place where success is not assured. I’m not going to say Chuck is the exact opposite because Chuck will take a risk with the best of them. He does not like doing a song he was not expecting though. Basically he’s afraid he’s going to forget it and doesn’t want to look like a schmuck. As far as sets go, he prefers to play the same set on a tour. He likes to hone it so it gets more powerful. I kind of think of his approach as being akin to the Japanese aesthetic approach to art.  And I do know that sounds like a freshman college boy at a coffee shop trying to get in the pants of the dark-haired, dusky-skinned junior semiotics major who’s got a mad crush on the poly-sci dude who says he’s going to drop out and work chopping down trees with an axe at a sustainable growth tree farming co-op that provides free writing paper to refugees so we don’t lose a generation of poets, but mostly feels like he could never have a job where he has to wear a shirt. Sometimes when he bends over to give individual raw sugar crystals to the ants congregating as equals to the human beings at the little creamery station in the coffee house, she can catch a glimpse of a butt cheek through the thready rips in his dirty chinos. So of course the freshman boy doesn’t stand a chance, going so far as to spurn the advances of the senior girl back at his old high school who thinks he’s so worldly, and if he’d only take her to the prom she would let him cup her breast.*

Anyway, back to the Japanese aesthetic. I read through as many of the different ideals of the aesthetic as I could on Wikipedia before I got bored and feel like the one called Iki, besides being a delightful homophone for our subject, gets pretty close to it. Well, actually I’ve changed my mind, but I didn’t want to lose the icky joke. Still, the Japanese thing was cool to read about. I liked the wabi-sabi ideal as well.**

No, I think what I am struggling to get at here is maybe closer to monochromatic painting. I’ll paraphrase the internet for what I’m going on about: “In the exploration of one color, the examination of values changing across a surface, the expressivity of texture, nuance, expressing a wide variety of emotions, intentions, and meanings.” You know the idea of getting a set of songs down to its purest form, where in theory it is most powerful. Keep in mind Chuck's favorite song to play is "Teenage Wasteland" because he plays one chord in one pattern the whole song. The downside of this approach in rock is of course boredom. As soon as you lose the ability to be present in a song you run the danger of going through the motions. And if you’ve played the same set a bunch you can go through the motions without fucking up. For myself I have to be reinventing the song in some way every night or my little spider monkey mind goes off in a million directions. Fortunately I’m still so perplexed by the notion of linking everything the band is doing rhythmically while still moving melodically that I have no problem most of the time trying to move towards some better version of our performance. Chuck is always present in the song, and I find that admirable. I wont speak for the rest of the band in this sense because I guess I don’t realty know what it is they’re pursuing. Everyone is restless and generally unsatisfied so I think we’re in good shape there.

Regardless, Chuck knows when he’s beaten so he agreed to the song in a bowl thing. It was simultaneously silly and intense. I know we should know our whole catalog, and of the rarities we played most of them sound just fine after a practice or two, but in this context, with no chance to even listen to them beforehand there was a real chance of things falling apart. I think “Tiny Spiders,” and “Motorcycle” went well, the rest were OK, and only “Crooked” died. Afterwards Chuck realized he’d had the capo on the wrong fret but I’m not sure that was entirely to blame. It also created a flow of songs no sane person would ever choose. I think at one point Lisa sang 8 songs in a row. Not everyone in the crowd loved it, but I kept thinking that if I could see a band I loved in someone’s living room playing a set which will never be repeated, then I would be pretty psyched. Also we figured there would be a fair number of repeat attendees from the last show there in April, and if we’re going to do these things we should really try to provide something unique.

It bears repeating that our hosts are two of the nicest people on the planet as well as having encyclopedic knowledge of current rock and Americana bands.

* Of course when he sees the error of his ways as a virginal senior and clumsily woos her with tickets to “Big – the Musical!” she’ll wonder what she ever saw in that pathetic weedy little man. He then ends up marrying a women he meets on a church mission to help rebuild neighborhoods in post-Katrina New Orleans and who, after only four childless years begins to despair at his complete lack of adventure, begins to poison him slowly so as to run off with her Salsa instructor and the insurance money.

** The whole reason I went down this rabbit hole was I was trying to find what it’s called, in what I think is Japanese art, where an artist will try to use the fewest strokes or colors to express some ideal. I find that a fascinating concept.

Tomorrow is a day off.

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.