Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Grave Babies: Tour Diary 2

Posted by on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 at 5:37 PM

Submitted yesterday, but edited and posted today, because there are not enough teens volunteering for the blog. —Eds.

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There's something incredibly powerful about the air along the coast that begins almost immediately after crossing into the state of California. The window rolls down for the first time after descending in latitude from Oregon into northern California precisely at the most nonsensical government checkpoint ever created: the agricultural check point. No we don't have and fucking fruit or plants, and even if we did are you really going to do anything about it? Every vehicle that passes through is waved along with a big smile, the kind of smile that can only be perpetrated by someone who spends all their time in the beautiful outdoors of northern California.

As the scenery changes from mountains to rolling flat lands, and you pass the largest slaughterhouse in the nation, Cowschwitz, it's very comforting to know we'll be in the beautiful city of San Francisco in a matter of hours.

We arrived a little late, which is on time, and the show was pretty effortless. The Hemlock in San Francisco seems to always be very lively, as most of the city seems free-spirited and full of life. I make the conscious effort to soak it up as much as possible. Those batteries feel depleted living in the northwest. It's one of the most refreshing things to be surrounded by the chaos of a dense population of free people. Our friend Jason had finally gotten a full band together for his project Permanent Collection, expanding it far beyond the one-man project it'd been only months ago. They were incredible, and it made me happy to see the band had come together so well in such a short amount of time. It really spoke to the musicianship of Jason and the members that have all come together to bring that project to life. The show was nice and well attended, and probably our best showing at the Hemlock yet. Chasms from San Francisco opened the night and very pleasantly surprised all of us. We stayed the night with close friends of Keith's at their flat in the Castro. We continued onto Los Angeles in the morning.

The highway stretches out slowly and the landscape rolls on forever in a very lazy and hypnotic fashion between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It's a short drive, relatively, but it's one that seems to be in some kind of suspended animation until you come over the final hill to witness sprawling slabs of concrete complete with shopping centers, fast food restaurants and the west coast's premiere amusement park, Six Flags over something something. It's a pretty good introduction to your arrival in Los Angeles.

We arrive at the Echo and the venue has been in full swing all day with a 12-hour, all-Australian music festival. The piercing sound and disgusting visual of drunk people raising their beers and shouting at some Australian pop band was a bit much to handle after driving 6 hours and wandering into the venue to take a piss. We waited patiently outside with the guys from Deathday—who were playing with us later—for the flood of wasted Aussies and the photographer who for some reason thought it was best to capture every moment of this inebriated spectacle as it poured onto the sidewalk. We grabbed one of the vacated parking spots and loaded in.

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Michael runs Part Time Punks, and before we met him last fall when we played at the Echoplex, we'd never played in LA. Shows are a little hard to come by. His night was really the only venue I cared to play because of the variety, or maybe similarity, of the acts he often showcases. The venue itself is top notch from the sound, lighting, and swank VIP-room (complete with white leather couch, framed in a grotto style stone archway) perspective. It was begging for us to lay down with some smoke and enjoy our bucket of Tecates. Everything about the show was cool, Deathday from LA were an amazing retelling of '80s post-punk with the obvious dark overtones, very well done. Tunnels from Portland opened the show with his unique brand of electronic wizardry, described by Tyler as the witch-house Dan Deacon. What both bands have released cassette tapes with former Portland record and cassette label Sweating Tapes.

Remy introduced himself to me and explained he started the label in Portland but had just recently moved to Los Angeles. He was there to showcase his wares and support two amazing acts he's managed to unearth from the overcrowded, often repetitive and under-whelming modern world of internet bands and real-fake artists. It was great to have had such a good bill for our show. After a bit of a scramble for our sleeping arrangements, our friend Jason offered to put us up for the night. He lived close by in Hollywood. Jason runs a cassette and record label called Living Tapes. He recently released a cassette for Mitch's project Perpetual Ritual, Mitch and I recorded last spring and fall. Jason was excited to tell me he's also gearing up to release a cassette of music Keith recorded with our friends and local Seattle band Baby Guns soon. He'd received the recordings Keith and Baby Guns made the other day and he was totally floored. Jason and I had been friends for a while, communicating over the internet. He was trying help Grave Babies book shows in Los Angeles around the time we traveled to Austin for SXSW last year. His home was very warm and inviting. I regret we broke a tiny shot glass he was using to sample out the whiskey he had around for us. Sometimes, however, things fall off the dish rack and into the sink and break, and they must simply be thrown away and apologized for. After hearing a long story about the history of gang violence in the neighborhood, we decided to walk around and get food. My trip to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, only blocks away, was put on hold, as it was approaching 4 am and we had a 13-hour drive the next day.

We woke up to a cloudy Los Angeles, reminding me of what I was hoping to have left behind in Seattle. We grab coffee and directions out of town, and as if in some perfect moment, Tupac blares on local Los Angeles Hip Hop radio as we get onto Interstate 10 and split into the heat of the desert.

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It's a very long, dry, hot, flat journey from Los Angeles to Las Cruces, New Mexico, where we stopped and stayed last night after yesterday's drive. Our decent into the south is always riddled with excitement. Tonight we will have finally arrive in Austin Texas after a night off and some needed rest. Humor for the trip today is provided by a piece of radical religious propaganda we found at the gas station just after El Paso. This is an almost identical trip to the one we made to Austin last year. We arrive to play a party that showcases artists working with our booking agency, Panache, at the Scoot Inn. The gigantic corporate event that is South By Southwest is primarily made up of these parties, showcasing artists that work with a particular record label or booking agency, or swank events thrown by blogs or media outlets. There is also a huge number of unofficial, non-festival sanctioned shows that take place as well in bars and homes. Tonight we're scheduled for 10 pm on the main stage outdoors. An absolute staple of the festival for me is settling into the excitement of having finally arrived and experiencing Thee Oh Sees playing all the hits under the expansive, star covered Texas sky while drinking a Lone Star and anticipating the days to come. Thee Oh Sees play at midnight.

 

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