We pick up Jed from the airport and ten seconds later he gets a phone call from his agent offering him good T.V. gig that he can't take because he is now in Wisconsin and on tour for a month but he does get to eat a FREE PIZZA from the club. Me and Susanna decide we don't want to fill up on pizza before the show so we go next door to our fave (and only one we know) restaurant in Green Bay and get a salad and a basket of fried cheese curds. Whups.
First Band -
(big dramatic white space here)
Well 10 years later we're playing third, baybee! When I tell Pete about our free dinner and and mention the spaghetti is good, he asks if it's all you can eat. No, it's more like "all you can TAKE." Wait, I mean "all you can STAND"? "All they can give"? I dunno.
Two months ago I got a message from some guy I met once, literally one time, asking to get on the guest list tonight. I have to admit I am impressed with the CERTAINTY that ol' whatshisname will not be able to scrounge 8 measly dollars in TWO MONTHS.
Since the rim of my snare drum is bent and it sounds like a cross between a child's sand pail and a 18th-century church bell, we head to the drum shop to replace it. When I go inside after parking the employees are staring into the case with their faces aglow like it's the brief case in Pulp Fiction. Turns out our crappy snare I've been standing on for years is worth a lot of money. So much so that the the super friendly heavy metal guy we've been talking to, who turns out to be the drummer of Marylin Manson, wants to trade and entire Ludwig drum kit for it. We buy a new rim and when we are too cheap to buy a new head ($12) the drum shop guy's eyes well up with tears of confusion.
We play with Party Bat tonight, who are silly and fun, and our awesome buds Coffin Pricks. We have a great turnout and the show is a blast. We play every song we know (ALL 13!) and when people are yelling for an encore we can't do one and some kids look so sad it sends a little dagger through my heart. But, better a little "leave them wanting more" dagger in the heart than a "these few want even less" dagger in my BRAIN we usually get.
We stay with Pete's pal and after trying to sleep on a sectional couch with very lubricated wheels and trying to keep the pieces attached like an inchworm I decide to give up and sleep in the van. After moving "coat mountain" and record boxes to clear the seat to sleep on, I shut the door and start to fall asleep. Then I hear a "click" sound followed by "two little wheels" sound and realize someone is wheeling my suitcase I didn't realize I left outside the van down the sidewalk. I frantically jump of the van in my underwear and yell "STOP, THAT'S MINE! I JUST ALWAYS LEAVE IT OUTSIDE THE VAN WHEN I'M IN A SAFE LITTLE CITY LIKE CHICAGO!" and the guy kindly gives it back saying, "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought someone had lost it, good thing I'm returning it." Then I go to sleep feeling super crappy realizing that with all my rock and roll honky complaining that in this warm sleeping bag in this van with a suitcase full of boat shoes I basically live in Beverly Hills.
Disclaimer: If I sound like a crank, it's only because this journal will lean towards showcasing the LOWS of the trip, as I don't find much entertainment value in the "we made it there in record time/wow gas is cheap here/they gave us FOUR drink tickets/the place was packed/I found a dollar on the ground/turns out crabs actually "FEEL GOOD" good luck stories—I wanna hear about the horrors. Unless you get to do blow back at Grace Jones's hotel room or urinate into some evil band's merch tub, positive highlights are just kinda boring. All right, let's DO this:
(Forgive me, this intro was written back in September.)
Hey kids! It's "back to school" time and "back to work" time and "time to GROW UP" time so you know what that means...it's time for America's #1 Rock and Roll Cockroaches to skitter across the country sucking up our precious nutrients in the dive-iest nightclubs each city has to offer. The cast is keyboardist Susanna Welbourne, drummer Pete Capponni, bassist Jed Maheu, and me.
After wrapping up some neglected chores, like duct taping our side mirror back on and paying our lapsed van registration, we are ready to hit the road, at 4:30 p.m. in Los Angeles! A couple hours outside of town, in a Starbucks parking lot, there is a long white bus with a throng of Asian tourists standing around, and as we pull in, a very tall white pick-up drives by them, and on a C.B. type intercom the driver yells at them to "go the fuck back to Tokyo" and peels out.
Hey man, is that freedom rock?
(Funhouse) Not to be confused with the bourgeois Belltown salon, Dreamsalon is the new project of Matthew Ford, Min Yee, and Craig Chambers, Seattle art-punk veterans who have expatriated from acts like the A Frames, the Intelligence, and the Lights. All members also get weird in Evening Meetings with ex–A Framer Erin Sullivan, and as Dreamsalon have been playing some material live from their new debut LP on Sweet Rot Records. Dreamsalon put the lo-fi frosting on the post-punk death cake, with pop melodies and ramshackle finesse à la Flying Nun Records types like the Clean. This cake is one of the artiest, noisiest, and punkiest baked goods around, and must have been baked in the Dead Moon's graveyard with a big slab of garagey pop. Tonight marks the return home for the band from their first West Coast tour.
A couple months back, bad ass local filmmaker/nice guy Carlos Lopez launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a 18th Century-period video to "Bong Life," the opening track from Intelligence's fantastic 2010 release, Males. Thanks to the generous donations (coupled with the sweet prizes that you got for your contributions), Lopez met his $650 goal, powdered wigs, corsets, and frock coats were rented, and the video was made. Here it is, maestros. Take a hit.
Get a message a few days ago saying "the venue is being moved from Tempe to Scottsdale because the owner of the venue won't answer his phone - and the only problem is there is a sold out Best Coast show across the street." Eh, PAR FOR THE COURSE.
Anyway, get to the club and the promoter is twitchin' and wigglin' and snifflin' like a good nightclub promoter should. He excitedly says "You can put your gear over there—or over there—or right here—or back there—or here—or there—or under here—or up there...." Our friends Digital Leather are playing tonight and are sitting in a booth over in the corner. My Spidey Sense starts tingling, and we notice there is some tension over there. We see the promoter looking anguished and overhear him say "Oh yeah? WELL GOOD LUCK GETTING PAID TONIGHT THEN ASSHOLE," and the calm D.L. singer just shrugs and says "Eh, that'd be typical of you." Then the promoter throws his drink all over him and D.L. just shrugs and the promoter gets dragged outside by the bouncer and the singer and entire bar follow them outside for what I assume is a fight but am to lazy/bored to look. They both come back in arm in arm and line up at the bar. Who says booze can't solve your problems? The first band starts and they are so awful it's almost entertaining. An all-girl punk band (makes me long for the days of ALL-BOY PUNK BANDS) starts a strummin' and a screachin'. They introduce the first number, "This songs about food," and they belt out the lyrics "TATER TOTS!/TOSTATAS!/VEGGIE-BURGERS!"
If someone ever pressed me for the worst phrase ever sung into a microphone, it would definitely be veggie burgers by a fucking landslide. But somehow, I am inexplicably turned on by all this. I can't figure it out; I'm drawn in. I'M AROUSED. Oh, a video of the movie Valley Girl featuring the first breasts I ever saw (popping out of a JUMPSUIT) is playing over the top of them. No wonder. I can't turn away. Satan laughing spreads his wings. They finish the set with a sloppy song that just chants "I WANNA FUCK" over and over and my penis is so inverted it hurts. We play and I'd give us a smooth rating of JUST FINE. After getting offered $80 of our $100 guarantee, we get a very appreciated intervention warning against staying at the "drug house" that's been lined up for us and instead stay with the coolest guy from Earthmen and Strangers, and it turns out to be the cleanest and coolest place we've stayed complete with spare rooms, BBQ sandwiches and our buddy Ben Shepard hot rockin' on the Conan O'Brien Show.
We're basically playing Oakland for two reasons: 1. to spend more time in the bay area, and 2. Sic Alps are playing. It's great to have a day off in S.F., and we sleep in and have breakfast at St. Francis' Soda Fountain (wisely no one goes for the Guinness Float this time) and we walk and shop (with only three days left, Susanna impressively adds two nice additions to "Coat Mountain," the three-foot-tall pile of unworn coats in our back seat) around the Mission District, and it is almost a religious experience to be out of the van all day. Tonight we are playing an old building in Oakland converted into a dingy speakeasy type bar with a dank room in the back to play in. There are five bands on the bill, and nothing happening even though it's 10:30 PM. This is going to be a long night. Eventually Scott Colburn—notable for recording Animal Collective's Strawberry Jam—plays first and is pretty great. Dressed like Dr. Doom meets Eyes Wide Shut, he dances and sways to some catchy bloops and bleeps from a pile of samplers. At one point I butt into a chat with our host Summer about the merits of Four Loco, and she offers to buy me one. I explain that I don't roll with the energy drinks, but she insists I try it. I resist, and we argue for a while until I finally cave just to end it. As I take a tiny sip, the tangy grape gumball flavor hits my epiglottis and I immediately spray the whole purple mouthful all over her face in a effort that would make Carol Burnett proud.
Our friends Angora Debs (formed from the ashes of the fantastic FM Knives) play next and they are great and sound like Nick Lowe on an amphetamine bender with the Buzzcocks. Masaki Batoh (from Ghost) is next and makes some pleasant noise that I completely ignore, and finally the mighty Sic Alps play and are killer as usual. We play last at about 3 in the morning, and half the crowd leaves but we are so relieved to be released from the cigarette dungeon (they won't let you stand outside) that we happily drive our cholera wagon (everyone is wheezing and coughing the whole way home) straight to our beds, shower and crash.
I wake with a deep and depressing second-hand nicotine hangover, and after a pizza breakfast I feel like a real crumb bum. On our long drive up the beautiful (zzzzzzzzzzzzz) 101 we stop for gas, and out of boredom I'm pulled toward one of those weird machines full of quarters with a moving shelf where the goal is to drop new quarters in to push the old ones off the ledge and into the "winnings bin." I drop one in. It creates it's typical chain reaction moving the wall of quarters a millimeter, which pushes a huge pile one millimeter closer to the edge. I drop a couple more in and a few fall into the winnings bucket and the "clunk" sound is strangely satisfying. I start dumping quarters in and am running out to the van for more and am transported to a place where all my worries and cares are distilled down to putting one more quarter in this machine. Twelve dollars (or 48 quarters) later I have won about $4 (though I've immediately dumped that right back in) and I have a strange sensation of what a gambling addiction is all about. It's fantastic. I beg the band to let me take our entire tour earnings and let it ride, but they resist. FUCKERS. We continue down the 101 with the '"clunk" sound on a loop in my brain.
They may say Eureka is a town full of THC-damaged burnouts, and that may explain why they like us so much here, but all I can say is IT'S NICE TO BE APPRECIATED! Though we have learned not to ask any strangers any questions here: Example: Is there anywhere good to eat around here? "Oh there was a really awesome restaurant to eat at but it closed." Blink, blink.
We are playing at a cool art space called the Accident Gallery and they treat us great. We play and it's a blast with people singing along grabbing our legs. Tonight we stay with a girl we stayed with last year who had a solo dance party at her place unveiling a great move "The Creepy Swimmer," where you lay on shag carpeting on your belly with a lit cigarette and "breast stroke" to the slowest Fleetwood Mac song ("Storms") while a band of four are in their sleeping bags peeking one eye at you.
In the morning Megan wakes us up with a soft shoe dance and song about a "burger bonanza," because we have plans for our buddy Jesse to take us to his hamburger stand where Eric and I have guacamole bacon burgers for breakfast 'cause—well, FUCK IT, that's why.
We are more the fresh-air window/freeze types, so as usual we stick Megan and Eric in there and me and Susanna sleep in the basement (an ultra-clean and cool practice space he graciously lets us use), though we can't figure out how to shut off the light, so waking up six hours later it resembles—as Susanna puts it—"waking up in a crackhouse." The only way we can top our unhealthy breakfast streak (Burritos, Pizza, Burgers) is with extreme doughnuts, so we head to Voodoo Doughnuts to start another day with regret.
Standing in our living room it already feels like the whole tour was a dream. The good news is only the heat, water and lights have been shut off, and we consider this a win compared to previous tours, from which we've returned to both cars having been towed from the driveway and put or for public auction, or a family of possums moving in and the house reeking like a neglected hamster cage. We are jazzed tonight to be playing with our S.F. buddies The Fresh and Onlys, and we love Clinic. Also a nice bookend to this tour is celebrate our "homecoming show" by playing 1st at 9:30 (Sharp!) for $150 (after $80 in gas from Portland—that's 14 bucks A PIECE!). But Neumos treats us great and we get lucky and (perhaps in response to all of our last-minute internet begging) the place is pretty full and we have a very pleasant last show. For our last song I ask for the 2000-watt strobe light and afterward receive the compliment "That almost gave me a seizure and I never want to hear that song again." The Fresh and Onlys are great, and like a true dickhead I am downstairs talking to Clinic when they dedicate a song to me. It's great to finally see Clinic and see our friends. Typically, Beren and I will have one tear-streaked blowout fight per tour, and this one fortunately lands on our last night where she quits, (for the fourth time) and then as usual we slow dance and whisper insults to each other to the tunes of Rufus Wainwright. A friend of mine once said "The thing about playing your last show in your hometown is; you GET to sleep in your own bed, but you HAVE to wake up in to too." And it rings very true. Usually by this point I am dying to get home, but this time I'm sad the tour is over and having the "family" lineup made it the funnest tour we've done. Now if you'll excuse me, after my old job text messages me that I'm fired, I'm off to dry a load of laundry with an entire pack of gum in one of the pockets.
EPILOGUE: I got an email today from the same booking agency that represents Gary Numan AND the Gories (as well as Dolly Parton, the Everly Brothers and Pink Floyd).
So maybe this is proof that some nightmares can turn into a regular dream. Or at least if you pay your dues long enough you just might earn THREE drink tickets.
Richmond has some of the most hospitable (and drunkin'-est and smokin'-est) people around. The cigarettes here are made locally and so fresh you can eat them! Pretty decent show for the night after Halloween and a Monday. When our host and his girlfriend take us home and offer us their spare bedroom, they unfortunately refer to it as their "weird sex room," because "it has a mattress and internet porn." And it is indeed an empty room with a mattress and computer on a desk that is otherwise completely bare, save for a Costco-size bottle of coco butter lotion and a roll of paper towels. After tucking us in, the couple retreat to their room to have a loud whiskey-fueled argument.
While we're looking for dinner, a rough-looking old drunk guy (with a some kind of forehead tattoo—I hope it's not a BRUISE) slumped on a bench demands our ladies "c'mere and sit on my lap while I ask you a question." Strangely, they don't want to, and we shuffle into the closest restaurant. He follows us in, and the employees greet him with worn-down "Hey Chilly Willy." They are kind and fix Chilly Willy a plate even though he is so tough on them. ("Bag this up right for once, bitch!") Then they have to give him the boot and lock the front door after he comes back in to curse and complain three more times. The show is cool. We play with some nice kids' band whose female singer looks all of 17 and is chugging beers so furiously that she lets loose a 15-second burp into the microphone, then follows it up with a gay/Indian joke. Tonight is Megan and Eric's 2-year Anniversary, so we spring for hotel rooms and though we expect them to want a romantic evening in, they send a text 10 minutes after check-in saying to come over for pizza and Jameson's and next thing you know we are tromping through some brier patches under a freeway to have a nightcap at a gentleman's club in the distance. The joint alarmingly features two gigantic plasma TVs on either side of the stage (one playing NASCAR and one playing a Flowbie infomercial). Settling on the aggressively oversold drink special "Wet Panty Shots," I'm a bit horrified to see they are $12 apiece for what I imagine is rubbing alcohol and pineapple juice.
On the drive today Eric and I encounter a gas station restroom stench so foul that it can only described as "the defecation of stubbed-out cheap cigars." We love Atlanta, and the Earl is a great venue and was rated one of the 10 Best Burgers in America by the New York Times, so I have a guacamole burger that is fantastic but also requires about 15 laps around the block to get my left arm to stop tingling. The opening band Barracudas are killer, (kind of like how I WANT the Feelies to sound) and we have a real nice crowd. It's also always great to see Henry from Chunklet. We stay with our good friend Dave, who makes us "Taco Soup," and tells me he's been on a big almond kick but doesn't think he chews them enough because "It feels like a cat trying to claw its way out of my insides sometimes." When he impersonates the clawing cat, it creates an image so revolting I miss the cigars.
This is probably the best city in the United States, and it's where Megan, Eric and Susanna are from, so we are thrilled. We have decent Pho for dinner, which, being from Seattle, is like eating at McDonalds in Paris, but it's cheap and easy so I'll quit whining. The bill is great tonight: Local guitar legend Lightning Guitar Lee is cool as hell, and at one point an awesome creepy swampy song starts and I say to myself "NOW THIS IS THE KIND OF BLUES I CAN GET BEHIND," and realize it's a cover of the Cramps "Human Fly." Big Freedia is supposed to headline but plays second. We're told, "When she's on the bill, she does what she wants." They absolutely tear the roof off the place with people dancing upside down and going crazy. It's tough act to follow and we play well and the show's good but Big Freedia is impossible to top but who cares we are in one of the best cities in the world and have a blast.
We hang in New Orleans until the last possible second and get into town with enough time to eat at Schlitz and Giggles ("Silly Name - Serious Pizza"). It makes all of us so sick that it's definitely not funny. Tonight we are playing with Polvo, which I am kind of excited about until they rework the few songs I know and the drummer looks like the owner of ShaboomShaboom's from East Bound and Down. This 90s math rock has not aged well, and between last night and tonight I feel like we've played with the blackest and the whitest bands we've ever played with. Plus the audience is a total fucking dud. After the first song not even one hand claps, and it's so awkward that we collectively crack up onstage. We get a hotel and watch a creepy 80s documentary on the circus and I take a fistful sleeping pills and pray for sweet relief.
Name-Dropping Section: Deerhunter is really cool and super complimentary and Wavves buy us shots. We stay at Megan and Susanna's dad's house. He's an amazing musician and totally cool dude who gives us his new CD (featuring Willie Nelson and Kreutzman from the Grateful Dead), gets us burritos from the gas station, and cranks Link Wray records while making us mix CDs. We head off into the warm and dusty afternoon listening to Marty Robbins feeling dusty and warm.
PHYSICS BONUS SECTION: There is something strange going on with how the van is grounded or something, and it creates a huge build up of static electricity every time we drive, and so that EVERY single time you get out of the van the first metal thing you touch gives you a large shock. It's funny how weeks of this begin to wear on you and you become ultra-pensive about touching the fuel pump or the gas station front door. If our band is late for the gig we're usually stalling outside the Shell station doors saying "No really, AFTER YOU," to each other.
Get a text message this morning saying "Lubbock wants to cancel the show since they can't cover the guarantee OR you can play and they'll give you 100 percent of the door." WELCOME TO THE BIG LEAGUES! It's smack-dab in the middle of a 14-hour drive, so why not? The venue is a house, and the kids are so nice I don't feel embarrassed when they take the $$$ away. They say we can sleep there. ("We have a space heater you can use too 'cause it gets SUPER FREEZING down here.") They also buy us a 12-pack of beer and recommend eating at Alfredo's Mexican Restaurant down the street, which gives all of us a united stomach ache, and we "crop dust" seven blocks of Lubbock on the walk back. About 20 people show up and the opening act is a guy rapping over a laptop and actually not bad. Next is the house band, who are kinda like Flipper played at the wrong speed. We play and it's actually kinda fun and the cops come and pull the plug. We quickly Priceline a hotel while the sweet kids are buying stuff and cursing the pigs. We get paid maybe 30 bucks, six dollars of which is in change.
It's funny what an oasis Starbucks become on tour: clean restrooms, drinkable coffee, expensive fruit, and decent soft-jazz compilations. While shoveling in our "healthy choice" oatmeal, Susanna finds her bank account has been hacked, (third time this year) and gets to begin the process of faxing and canceling from out of state. Tonight we play in Albuquerque with our friends Shannon and the Clams and I'm so excited I am leaning forward in my seat while we drive. We were going to skip Albuquerque this time since last year was so rough, but a nice guy emailed and begged us to come, so we are playing at Voodoo Scooters tonight. We get in town with enough time to eat at the college staple, The Frontier Room, and to experience the meth/college damage-mood of the strip. When Megan goes in a gas station to use the bathroom, this rail-thin, scabby-looking dude pops up and blurts "SHE'S NOT GOING IN THERE TO SMOKE METH IS SHE!?" Us: "Uh, no." Him: "OH! UH GOOD, CAUSE UH, THAT STUFF'S BAD FOR YOU!" and he quickly skittles off down the alleyway. The crowd is actually pretty great and Shannon and the Clams are fantastic as usual. Earlier while reading a preview of our show over each others' shoulders we read a comparison of the Clams' singer Shannon to Beth Ditto. Shannon (who sounds NOTHING like Beth Ditto) replies "They always say that just 'cause we're both chunkers," and I fall even more in love with her. All these street nutsos come in while we play and dance like it's been illegal since the 80s (at one point we notice a crazy dude up front whose earbuds are blasting his own jams louder than our amplifiers). Later at a stoplight, idling next to the Clams' van, they signal to roll down the window and yell "GOT ANY WEIRD MUSTARD?" You can't get much better than a modern group of hot weirdos that sounds like Del Shannon and makes Grey Poupon jokes in 2010.
A highlight for us in Minneapolis is to hook up with our friend Matthew of the Birthday Suits who is an amazing sushi chef at Fujiya, and another is playing with the excellent band The Blind Shake. As they colaborate with my favorite Minnesotan musician Michael Yonkers, I am forever hassling them to tell me new stories about him. They tell me about how he is obsessed with Old Country Buffet and eats one huge meal there EVERY SINGLE DAY, and that once, while defending his habit, he explained "My family gives me a lot of grief over the amount of money I spend eating here every day, but when you look at the amount of food and amount of nutrition I get from it, I can't afford NOT to eat at Old Country Buffet."
Also, while complaining about the lack of audience in Fargo last night, I'm told '"It could be worse; years ago Tortoise played there, and the entire bar formed a Conga line and circled the stage chanting 'YOU SUCK!' during the show. On the way to the house we crash at, our host calls and says he's bringing five Meat Pile Pizzas home. When I ask for one vegetarian, he asks how many of us are vegetarian, and I tell him four-and-a-half out of five, he increadulously exclaims MAN YOU GUYS ARE SERIOUS ABOUT IT HUH!? Another band is staying there too, and they smoke so much my lungs seal themselves together and I wheeze my way to sleep gasping out the only crackable window.
As I've recently fallen off the veggie wagon, I get a text from my dad saying '"When you are in Wisconsion if you eat a cheese burger it will be the best one you've had in your f'ing life. That's just a fact jack!." I'll see him his burger and RAISE him DEEP FRIED CHEESE CURDS. Then I walk straight to the E.R. to get my stomach pumped. The show is decent; I'd give it a soft thumbs up, but the best part is staying at our friend Kevin Mistreaters's house, which has an amazing 60's style rec room basement with huge light up bar and beautiful record collection and beautiful painted floors and beds and cool kids and great breakfast. JACKPOT! His son is a lil' wild man and sneaks into the basement and asks us to pile all the mattresses on top of each other so he can ride his plastic three-wheeler off of it. I comply, and just before takeoff he says "I'm not supposed to do this,'" and flies off and lands directly onto the top of his skull and my stomach drops, but he pops right up and says "Hi-five pal!" He also gives us a new inside tour-joke when his baby sister cracks her eyes open from a nap in her swing and he balls up his fists and chants "GO-TO-SLEEP-GO-TO-SLEEP."
We have a great breakfast at Big Star Tacos and get to overhear a hilarious debate over a controversial Halloween costume:
Guy: Man my worst costume ever was as a cool black dude and I thought I was just going to a party but we had to stop at a party store and everyone in there HATED me.
Girl: I can't believe you went to a party in black face.
Guy: It's not like I was singing 'Hey Mammy.' I had speakers in my jacket that were playing N.W.A. I was just a cool dude. From the 80s.
Girl: I hate you so much right now.
I've set the bar as low as it can go for this one, but it is the birthplace to The Spits, so it's already more musically important than the entire continent of Ireland. The place is great and the morsel of a crowd is very enthused and noodle dancin' funkier than a Phish concert inside Dave Matthews's Tour Bus Septic Tank. A nice guy offers me some of the whiskey bottle he hides in carcass of the burnt-down gas station across the street (I pass). In the morning, we awake to a stray roommate grouchily asking "Where the mattress that goes to this cot?" I'm not sure, up your butt next to the stick? He realizes he sounded like a douche and gives us a box of Cheese-its. EVEN STEVEN.
Kalamazoo is a cool little town and has some great shopping. I have to pass up a fringe leather suit but get a great vintage swamp monster costume for cheap. Unfortunately, this is the night that Dean Whitmore from Unnatural Helpers calls to tell me the awful news that our great friend Andy Kotowicz passed away in an automobile accident. I loved Andy, and am so sorry for his family and friends. He just had an undeniable light and kindness emitting from him. Please contribute something here.
The Intelligence is on a six-week tour of the U.S. This is our tour journal. A clarification: If I sound like a crank, it's only because this journal will lean towards showcasing the LOWS of the trip, as I don't find much entertainment value in the "we made it there in record time/wow gas is cheap here/they gave us FOUR drink tickets/the place was packed/I found a dollar on the ground/turns out crabs actually "FEEL GOOD" good luck stories, I wanna hear about the horrors. Unless you get to do blow back at Grace Jones's hotel room or urinate into some evil band's merch tub, positive highlights are just kinda boring, okay? All right, lets DO this:
While loading merch into the van at home, (an easy task, since only HALF of the merch order arrived) we get a text message saying "Spokane is worried about the turnout tonight and wants to cancel the show and pay you 100 bucks." Apparently, there is a Coheed and Cambria show that has absorbed our potential crowd. We drive and pick up our cash (which at that point has transformed into $75), and are offered shots of "Fireball" (cinnamon whiskey). We go to kill time at a pizza place/karaoke joint until our host gets off work at 1 am. Time has stopped in this place, and it is 1997 like a motherfucker. Karaoke versions of New Radicals, Folk Implosion, Soul Coughing, Soul Asylum, and it's an entertaining waterfall of other two-word named bands until it isn't anymore, and we move on to MOOTSY'S for DOLLAR PINT NIGHT. As the ladies are deciding on a drink at the bar, a giant and hilarious dude drunkenly leans in between them and asks "WHAT TIME THIS PLACE CLOSE?" and he remains there very close and for an awkwardly long time waiting for an answer. I suggest that he maybe give the cringing girls a little space, and when he turns to me each eye is looking in a different direction. He says "I AIN'T TRYING TO HOLLA AT NOBODY'S LADY" and is immediately kicked out. I feel bad for some reason. Our host shows up, and we go to his place where Susanna and I sleep in the under-construction basement (freshly cut sheet rock and exposed wire and cloudy white dust) and wake up with sore lungs.
Tonight we are playing a house party organized by a very nice 'commune'/Food Not Bombs house (When Susanna is informed this means they might dumpster dive for their food, she says "Then I won't eat the food as a political protest because the food should be left for the ACTUAL BUMS." We are fed spaghetti and offered bong hits by five different people in the first five minutes. (We pass). Six bands play, including Whiskey Whore (sample lyric: "When I die I wanna got to hell 'cause I'm a piece of shit,"), Fag Rag, and Bad Naked—one solitary guy in a Zorro mask and underwear playing an acoustic bass and screaming "Push out the babies and push 'em in the factories!/Push out the babies and push 'em in the factories!/Make the shit we like!/Weld it good!/Sew it good!" Another favorite: "See that old man with his cane/now it's my walking stick/now it's my BEATING STICK." It is a blast. Later our air mattress deflates as soon as we lay down, and I fall asleep with my feet above my head.
It's a 14-hour-plus drive to Fargo (basically 20 after my bathroom stops). We've learned to do this at the beginning of the tour as it can be so depressingly boring that all you can do is listen to Erik Satie and stare into the void. We finally stop around 2 am in Dickenson, North Dakota, and every hotel is booked for hunting season. I thought that the whole point of hunting was to drink the deer's blood and sleep under the stars in its carcass. It doesn't seem right to bag a deer and have a Rooty Tooty Fresh and Fruity breakfast and watch Becker in a warm bed at the Comfort Inn, so we drive on. Wait, there's a vacany sign—a true dump glowing like a beacon! "One room left," the clerk says. Highlights include two towels for five people (I am answered with a blank stare followed by a shrug when I ask if we can get more), a hornet in the room, and a shower curtain that emits such a powerful cigarette smell that I want to steal it to impress others.