Thursday, August 31, 2006
I mention this because last night, in Atlanta, there was a storm. None of that wimpy San Francisco drizzle which may or may not be particularly grumpy fog. This was lightning like daylight, water coming out the gutters like a volative faucet, and forty-five second thunder claps, triply more intense than the beginning of Black Sabbath's song Black Sabbath on the album Black Sabbath, which, come to think of it, really could have been a bit more creative with all that acid they were doing. I'm unsure if the weather was the outskirts of Ernesto or just a really mean downpour, but Dave, Zach, & I stood outside and marvelled at it for a while, praising the Donald for it's lack of holes, cracked windows, and poorly sealed sunroofs.
Which got me thinking: Ernesto is a great name for a hurricane. It's a hurricane with a mustache and a bad attitude. There's one in Mexico called John right now, and, sorry, but that's pathetic. When we get home, I'm going to apply for this job. The naming hurricane job. I'm sure some weak bureaucrat is in charge now, slave to both the alphabet and his 99 cent Baby Names book he bought as an impulse while buying tomato soup and Wonder Bread. For J, I would have gone with Jasper. Not as sinister as Ernesto, I understand, but it sounds crotchety. Like someone woke it up from its afternoon nap and he's going to let everyone know about it. K could be Kraus, L would be Livingston or maybe Lazarus, and M would have to be Manglor, defined in my personal dictionary of nonsense words as "one who mangles."
But John? Please. John is your neighbor, your doctor, the first guy to die in a slasher movie. He's no hurricane, I'll tell you that.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Having been frightened silly by innumerable local
news exposes featuring black lights, glowing
stains, and glowering news casters, we've made it
a habit to strip the comforters off the beds
immediately upon entering our motel room each
night. It's a good ritual, I think. I stand behind it.
The problem is, sometimes, there's a gecko in the
Now, granted: this is a rare event. But it's rather
unsettling. Not unlike the three bears, I'd prefer
my bed unselpt in. And sure, a gecko's better than,
say, a dead hooker, but neither one is preferable.
Couple that with shoe-sized roaches in a closet
-sized bathroom and it's safe to say we will not be
returning to the Tallahassee Budget Inn.
I would, however, return to Tallahassee.
Surprisingly delectable pizza, a great venue, and
phenomenal amounts of Spanish Moss are all good
things. And, no, the show wasn't one of the...most
well attended shows of the tour thus far, but it
was certainly one of our favorites. Why, you might
ask? (Or if not, I'll ask for you). Well, sometimes,
regardless of size, there's just something special
going on. A good aura, if you will. And before you
break out the pachouli and Phish albums, I'll try
Actually, I really can't. Some combination of the
club, the Sammies, and the Whigs, a couple nights
off, a good dinner, and, to paraphrase that one
National song, being on a good mixture and not
wanting to waste it, well, it just did the trick.
I need to mention the supreme butt-whooping
glory that was the Whigs. If they come to your
town, go. Bring friends. Bring enemies and make
them your friends. We did the ol' CD trade and,
after the show they put on, I wouldn't've cared if
their album was all armpit noises and kazoos. For
better or worse, it isn't. It's epic, their show is
high energy and fun, and, like I said: check them
out. As highly recommended as a brandy milk punch
on a sunny afternoon.
Off to Georgia now. Bring on the peaches.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Check the B's. Right before Birdmuenster, a little known Zydeco band made up of Irish cheese merchants
Here's an odd little something: our CD comes out
today. Why exactly, you might ask, is this odd?
Well, a couple reasons. Firstly, it's been completed
since sometime in mid February. In fact, regular
readers may remember our Demi Moore in Indecent
Proposal moment wherein we rolled around in a
feather bed of No Midnights back in April. So, in a
certain way, its been out for around four months.
The problem was that there werent any in record
stores. You had to either brave the universe of
Paypal, our website, various online retailers, a few
select stores we'd badgered personally, or visit us
after a show, which usually meant that I said
something inexplicable while sweating profusely.
See, now it's in stores. Which means record stores.
And I love going to the record store. I like
wandering the aisles, filling up one of those
grocery-store plastic picnic basket things, and
spending what should have been my rent check on
new ear candy. Near my house, we have Amoeba
music, which, if you're unaware, is a converted
BOWLING ALLEY. Seriously. They have
everything. You like accordion heavy, triple
speeded covers of early doo-wop b-sides? Please.
They have a whole section. I've walked out of
Amoeba weeping with joy and poverty on several
occassions. It gives you a great excuse to not give
gutter punks booze money too.
We spent yesterday in full three-toed sloth mode.
I actually hung out in a tree for five hours, eating
leaves. Also, went to the beach on the Gulf of
Mexico, which is a lot like getting into a ten minute
old bath with seven jars of Morton's accidentally
spilled in. And we barbequed. Or rather, ate
barbeque made by Pete's sister's hubby. And played
banjo in the backyard, which is pretty much what
I've got planned for my elderly decades. That and
the wizard thing. And really: who doesn't like a
banjo playing wizard?
Hopefully though, something thoroughly Florida
happens today. Warm beaches & mosquito bites are
one thing but I want weirdness. I want snakes
eating alligators and exploding. I want illegitimate
vote recounts. I want Al Pacino frowing for three
hours straight, then dying in a hail of leaden
justice. Make it so.
Aw...poor Patrick. Hope your life as a cube is
fulfilling. Or, at least, symetrical and pointy.
Monday, August 28, 2006
On New Orleans, beards, the Sammies, donuts, and other supremely important issues of this day and age
There are a few things I'd never done before this tour. I'd never, say, eaten pizza in Missouri (and I don't recommend you do either). I'd never heard anyone say "hotter than two rats fucking in a wool sock" (more on this later). And I'd never grown a beard. Sure, I've had the two-day "look Ma! I went through puberty mustache", the three day, "lazy man's stubble," the six-day, "thank God they don't have a dress code at work beard" and the "smarmy gambling mustache" for various at home card games and ill advised treks to Nevada, but never anything resembling a proper attempt at emulating Abe Lincoln. And let me tell you something: I'm not sold. It feels like I have moss growing on my face. I moved past "the itchy stage" (which I was very excited about) into the "oh wait, this is the itchy stage" (which I'm far less excited about) yesterday, but, well, I'm on tour, and I figured this was a good time to try one out. Or a good time to forget my razor at home. But let's not get picky about it.
(Added bonus: Once we're home, the possibilities are virtually endless. The Franz Josef and Hulihee are my mental front-runners, so long as I realize I'd have no friends in a week and half. I would, of course, be spreading laughter throughout the streets of San Francisco, which is never a bad thing. Ok, onwards.)
So, being that we're in Tampa, this means we spent the day before driving through various shrouds of miserable humidity, and the night and day before in New Orleans. Now, San Francisco, in the hierarchy of homes to freaks and weirdos, is held in high esteem. There's that Asian dude on Market Street with the Risky Business sunglasses and the 12 Galaxies signpost who will regale with tales about the time he told Arnold to go down to Guantanamo, pole vault the concertina wire, and break out the inmates. There's that old guy who runs Bay to Breakers naked every year and has one disturbing, grapefruit testicle. Point is: there's all variety of lovable and frightening eccentrics. New Orleans though? It laughs at San Francisco. There's simply more weird per capita there. Your waiters are crazy, the maid at your hotel is crazy---in fact, there may or may not be padded walls surrounding the entire city. But it's an enjoyable crazy. Like the way I described our booker a few days ago. More Emperor Norton than Hannibal Lecter.
We woke up in New Orleans around noon, lazed around trying not to get sucked into Lost Boys (both Coreys? I mean, come on), and left near one, right after the street-flooding downpour began. The point of the journey was simple: beignets. As you may know, I have a voracious need for doughy breakfasts of all kinds (donuts, pancakes, french toast, and, if nothing else is available, gyoza), so after touting beignets as the greatest donut of all time*, we ran through the vertical river of muggy rain to Cafe Du Monde, where I was proven 100% correct.
After load-in and soundcheck at the most legit House of Blues I've ever been to, we cruised the city, saw a wedding party followed by a brass band, heard music both awe-inspiring and ear-gouging, drank outside (as you can and, indeed, you must), and just generally soaked it all in. After our show...well...let's be chronological.
The Sammies. They greeted us a few minutes past our soundcheck, while we were in the green room (which was actually green---I always love that), and, well, they're wonderful. Their guitar player sort of sounds like Boomhauer from King of the Hill. Their drummer and singer are brothers. Their bass player wears vests with undershirts. And they're just good guys. Fun, funny, obviously slightly crazy. Obviously going to enjoy this leg of the tour. I learned the "rats in a wool sock" thing from them. More such Southern wisdom will doubtless be dropped upon us. And, well, the music is great. It's plain old, no pretense rock n' roll, kind of a down home Pixies, but dancier, with two vocalists, two guitarists and---hell, just give 'em a listen. They're fantastic.
After the show, we all met outside and had a big ol' ho-down on Decatur Street. Half-sized guitars, tambourines, clapping, too much bad singing; we even sucked in a few bystanders. Like the out of key, off rhythm homeless man who sang primarily about Jesus while the guy from the Sammies sang primarily about female genitalia. Or the guy with a gold front worth more than my bass rig who just ran into the center of the circle and grunted. Or his buddy with the quadruple extra large shirt who yelled only "sing that shit! SING! THAT! SHIIIIT!" Or the balding Bostonian who complemented Peter's voice and tipped us $5, which we gave to the aforementioned out of key Baptist homeless dude, who informed us we were alright. Yes, New Orleans. That's what I was talking about.
*Honorable mention to the Cruller.
Friday, August 25, 2006
In which we bid adieu to Texas, Division Day, and pork ribs, and embrace the legality of sidewalk drinking, Cajun food, and the Sammies
Zach's watching St. Elmo's Fire next to me in the
back seat and I have to begin by pointing out that
nothing is more dated nor as thoroughly bogus as
Rob Lowe's earring in this movie. I'm trying to
remember if I've ever seen this thing before, yet,
all I can think of is crawling into the VCR and
ripping his ear off his head. It's invading all my
thoughts. As, perhaps, you may be able to tell.
But we'll ignore that. We'll move on. We're growing,
Right now, we're passing one of the innumerable
stretches of bovine-laden grasslands that I'm
beginning to think make up at least, oh, eighty
percent of the United States. If cows could
organize themselves or use any sort of weaponry,
we'd be in a serious connundrum. Thankfully, they
can't. Cheeseburgers and milk, all around. This
particular pasture is on the way to New Orleans,
our first date sans Division Day and, not
coincidentally, our first date with the Sammies.
Plus, we get to go to New Orleans, which is
basically it's own little country, what with the
Zydeco and the brandy milk punch and the
ridiculously delicious butter-drenched everythings.
I went there on a vacation a few years ago and
have desperate to get back. Maybe we'll do some
Jackson Square panhandling, unless there's some
unwritten, unspoken code of busking of which I'm
currently ignorant. If so, do tell. I don't want to
get stabbed by a territorial tarot card mistress.
So, Austin. We'd been twice previously, once during
the musical clusterfuck overload known as South
By Southwest, which is at once thoroughly
enjoyable and completely overwhelming, and
another time a few months back with the
gentlemen (and gentlewoman) from Art Brut, who,
look at them, formed a rather fantastic band.
Neither time did we have a chance to actually
escape that whole 6th Street-Red River-ish area
that, essentially, is just blocks and blocks of bars,
clubs, and food to which you unfortunately resign
yourself. This time though, thankfully, we saw a
bit of the city. And lord had we been missing out.
Zilker Park is phenomenal (natural springs plus
diving boards? Man and nature call a truce), the
Colorado is always gorgeous, and, well, that's
about as far as we got. But we had an hour, so cut
us some slack, if you will.
Okay Rob Lowe. You need to not be on the TV.
Where was I? Austin, that's right. We played
Stubb's, which meant free barbeque, loud, amazing
sound, and...I mentioned free barbeque, right? Being
that it was our last show with the Day, we both
stormed the stage during each other's set, played
a variety of jangling percussion implements (a bit
too hard in my case---I've got the bruises and
bloody knuckles to prove it), and generally made
asses out of ourselves. Sad to see them head
home. At least we had hilariously grungy tequila
shots in a closet afterwards. We are the epitome
of style and grace.
Now, all we can do is drive. Drive and avoid the
plethora of stomach-churning truck stops here in
East Texas. Beware explicit bathroom graffiti,
low-rent porno mags, and beef jerky which,
defying all physical laws known to govern jerky
behavior, has actually expired. Sometimes, it's
best to drive until your bladder explodes so your
soul and faith in humanity don't do the same.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
I solemnly swear nothing below contains a single reference to Jean Benet Ramsey or the confessor with the crazy eyes.
For example: In Texas, maccaronni and cheese counts as a vegitable. In San Francisco, you can eat at a place called Cafe Gratitude, where every menu item is named "I am Wonderful" or "I am Bountiful" or "I am Creative" and every menu item, also, is made solely of uncooked veggies. It's where a cow would eat if it had $13.50 to spent of a salad with mandarin oranges and walnuts. The point? Well...ummm....does there have to be one? I'm just saying we've been through a lot of states in our travels and will be visiting as yet unseen ones in the coming month and some of them have nothing to offer. Texas does. And it buys you drinks. Sweet Jesus does it buy you drinks.
So far, we've played San Antonio (which included a post show Widespread Panic-esque jam out with D-Day, with melodicas, 4 drummers, and 10 hackeysacks involved), Houston (wherein the great Ms. Pacman ever resides), and, last night Dallas (put on by the gentleman from Gorilla vs. Bear). All were fun. Well, Houston: slightly less fun, but that was a more a sound issue than anything---the on-stage mix was a sort of mushy cacophany with no vocals, too much bass (regardless of umpteen attempts to turn down), and a sparking fuse box that threatened the scald Zach's eyebrows until he looked like that guy from Powder.
Tonight though, we head to Austin, a town with more venues than people, to play at Stubb's BBQ with Division Day for the last time until Spokane. Afterwards, we hook up with the Sammies, whose CD was on super-repeat in the Donald...until my iPod got stolen in Houston (another reason to shake my fist at Enron-town), who leave us after New York City. It's all very organized isn't it? We're like that. Or rather, the guy who books our shows is organized like that. Also, he's crazy. But it's a lovable crazy. Like that aunt you have who launches buttered rolls at your face each Thanksgiving. More Emperor Norton than Hannibal Lecter, certainly.
Lastly, sorry I haven't been able to respond to comments---impossible on this portable internet dealy-bobber, as it refuses to load the Turing Test letters. I can only say thank you, and that we all read them, and that they're a fine source of entertainment. You're Fired...Up, indeed.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
The tragicomedrama of Patrick Stewart is now,
thankfully, officially, over. It feels like we're on
tour again, and, well, the thing that was really
bothering me before was that it didn't feel like a
tour. It felt like a humongously expensive
odyssey, regardless of my ability to actually spell
or spellcheck odyssey. When you really just want
to be sleeping in after a night of music and gutter
-trash dating shows featuring dirty dudebros and
women so catty you fear they might crap in
scented sand, yet, instead, you've got to wake up
with the sun and haggle with greasy, mustachioed
assbags. Hey, that's what I do at work. I don't
want to do it on the road.
As an added bonus, driving the Donald instead of
Patrick Stewart is like moving from eating gruel,
coleslaw, and slurry to a steady diet of surf and
turf. I feel like I'm in a luxury liner* after riding
the bus for a year. Hell, we bought an Atari for
the back seat. I kid you not. If you're going to be
making payments on something until you have
arthritic knees and cyborg grandchildren, you might
as well enjoy every bit of it.
Take last night for example. If we were in
Arizona, we'd've resigned ourselves to hours
miserable erranding. Instead, we had numerous
Lone Stars, played one of those flop-around-like
-a-beached-beluga shows, and stayed up, slumber
party style, debating with Brett and various
members of Division Day whether if you use a
cucumber for...nefarious reasons, whether the
cucumber actually <i>becomes</i> said implement or
if its just, in the end, a cucumber used for
nefarious reasons. The jury: still out.
The point here is that that's fun. Or, if you don't
enjoy quasi-convoluted debates in which someone
struts around the room with shoes on their hands
claiming that they're gloves, you must at least
admit the rest of it sounds enjoyable. And after
the recent misfortunes, the whole shebang is
Tonight, we mosey into Houston and avoid bringing
up the possibly (and hopefully) dead Ken Lay. I
hear his fan club there is rather miniscule. My
head's clearing and I'm returning to normalcy.
Which is to say: expect rambling.
*...forty tons of steel / no one in this whole wide
world knows the way I feeeeel
Monday, August 21, 2006
The rather lengthy tale of how Birdmonster, after innumerable expensive and unfortunate happenings, finally saw the Thing.
Regular readers may remember my misguided and
intense personal desire to visit "The Thing?" in
Eastern Arizona. Call it silly. Call it ridiculous. Call
it naive suseptability to a hundred and fifty miles
of billboard advertisements. I had to see the
Thing. And my bandmates, god bless 'em, promised
to oblige. Of course, that was before the
transmission on our erstwhile van resigned less
than a week into our tour. What follows is the
story of how we finally saw the Thing.
Chapter 1: Hello Tucson. Can I get a drink? Stat.
Through dumb (and I mean really, really dumb)
luck or through the benign love of Gods unknown
we made it from Yuma to Tucson with a busted
transmission. It was one of those nail-biting,
pants-crapping journeys known only to astronauts
hurtling into orbit in a shuttle jerry-rigged with
duct tape, safety pins, and eight sticks of pre
-chewed Juicy Fruit. Alright, not quite. You get the
We arrived to hugs from Division Day, explained the
rather taxing stories of the day. Like being turned
away from two mechanics before finding a friendly
one who delivered Patrick Stewart's death
sentence while his leather-skinned lizard wife
looked on, probably pondering the wherebouts of
her meth. The bartendress there, aware of our
plight, supplied drinks made mostly of rubbing
alcohol and suddenly, the day made sense. Not
because we were blotto, but because we realized
why we'd forced the issue and forced our way into
Tucson. After a twelve hour drive, watching great
bands and playing music makes everything
wonderful again, albeit in a very, very temporary
way. We hung around as long as we could before,
as previously ordained in a rather resigned
discussion, we drove to Phoenix. The thinking: we'd
have a better chance at night. As it turned out, we
were completely right.
Chapter 2: Stop kicking me. I've lost my ability to
laugh through this.
We made it to Phoenix. Barely. There was plenty
of shuddering, a particularly nervy incline, and
more nail-biting (getting near the cuticles at this
point). Clairvoyantly, or rather, obviously, we
predicted further issues with Sir Patrick, so we
checked into a motel for two nights, unloaded the
gear, and prepped for the morning. The plan: wake
up rooster early, eat some Waffle House, buy a
new van, sell our old van, play a show in town, and
get a fitful rest. In the end, we went four for six.
The first two were easy. We finished our Waffle
House and made our disgruntled way to the first
auto mall of the day. After thirty minutes of
telling salesmen we were looking for four seat,
heavy-towing, used vans, getting shown brand new
two seaters, and wondering whether murder would
be justifiable at that point. We went to the next
place, got shown around by a serious dudebro who
had the same problem with the English language,
and started bleeding out our ears. Thankfully, that
was only an hour of our day. So we plopped back in
Patrick Stewart and rode off towards the next
auto mall. The choices were clinically depressing.
So on to the next. Only, well, when you're driving
city miles in a hundred plus heat on a blown
transmission, its only a matter of time until
you've got the tow truck driver on speed dial.
So yeah. We broke down. Again. And we sat there,
oh so much more than mildly aggitated, and we
decided to split up. Dave & I would figure out what
to do with the old van while Pete & Zach took a
variety of expensive cab rides around Phoenix in
search of the new van. Meanwhile, Divison Day
was eating a sandwich while we tried not to hate
Chapter 3: In which we bid adieu to Patrick Stewart.
There was a large part of me that wanted to give
Sir Patrick a viking funeral. An ex-coworker of
mine once gave her son's goldfish one and I always
thought that was pretty fantastic. I hope that kid
realizes how epic that is. I hope she realizes I'm
stealing her idea when I have a whippersnap of my
Of course, its hard to get money for a viking
funeral without charging admission and its hard to
charge admission without proper publicity and we
were between a rock and a hard place and a rather
shitty place to boot, so we decided for the next
best thing: Los Amigos Salvage Yard.
A couple things about Los Amigos. First, I don't
want my auto wrecking to pretend to be my
friend. Have you ever been to a salvage yard? It's
depressing. And Los Amigos was one yard among
about fifteen on West Broadway, also known as
the street where all machinery goes to rust and
die. And you know what gives you massive
bargaining power? An out of state title to an oil
-stained van that gets dropped off by your second
tow truck in as many days.
It's tacky to harp on how we haggled an extra few
hundred dollars out of our Amigos so I won't. It
made me feel slightly dirty but it was a dirty day
and we weren't even to early evening yet. Out of
expired gratitude, I refrained from hitting Sir
Patrick with a sledgehammer, instead patted her
hood, called a cab, and watched her dissapear in a
taxi's rear view. Dear Pat: may you be gutted for
a greater good.
Oh yeah. Somehow my phone got left in the cab.
Chapter 4: That van might work. If it wasn't
pissing coolant after a five mile test drive.
Meanwhile, Pete and Zach continued the
Sisyphusian task of finding a van in Phoenix. See
the title of this chapter for how well that was
turning out. Our cab dropped us off at what ended
up being the last strike out of the day, where we
drove a four thousand dollar lemon with a porous
radiator, and begrundingly decided that August
20th would contain an early morning roll to Budget
or National or What Have You. By this time, Zach
and Peter had a chauffeur, or, more correctly, a
cabbie whom they'd called twice already. He drove
us home for forty dollars. I wept profusely.
There are worse things in the world than ending up
in a hotel room filled with instruments, phoneless,
carless, and dejected, but we weren't thinking of
those things. We were, as it was, fairly glum.
Brett, a mutual friend of the Day and the
Monster, showed up in the DDay mobile, helped us
pack our gear, and ferried us to Modified Arts. Yet
again, we showed up mid-set-first-band and yet
again it all made sense. A few songs into the
evening, some old friends: right. That's the idea.
Two trips back to Ramada and a few hours of
schmoozing with the Day and we felt even
better. Sure, we had a plan that was vague at
best, but, baring bodily injury or Jeb announcing an
'08 bid, things couldn't really get a whole lot
worse. From the bottom, you can only look up.
Well, I guess you could look at you socks, but,
mine don't match.
Chapter 5: The Thing
That evening we flipped coins. Losers woke up to
rent a van, winners slept in, watched Harry Potter
on HBO and made sure we were out of the hotel in
time to avoid an extra day's charge. I won. Dave
won. Pete and Zach set the alarm clock for a
quarter till nine.
We get a phone call---or rather, Dave does, since,
well, my phone was being used by our cabbie at
that point---from Zach at a bit past ten. Turns
out, since he and Peter had trekked through most
of the dealerships in Phoenix the day before, they
decided to go for a clean sweep and visit the last
Suddenly there's a van outside our room. A real
van. Three years old, shiny, grey, gorgeous, less
than 20 thousand miles, with air conditioning, bells,
whistles, and a goddamn TV in the back. I looked
at it with trepidation. Wait, I thought. They
actually make cars like this? Ones without holes
in vital engine parts? Ones that don't smell
vaguely of petrol death? What does something like
this cost? My first born? My Faberge egg? Just
We crunched the numbers. A rental would be in the
thousands faster than you can say "we're in El
Paso" and, well dammit: we're going to be a band
for a long time, so what's the problem with a bit
of financing? How incredibly adult we felt. Also, I
almost shat myself. Bills: not my forte.
Jump with me three hours later, when the new van
rolls up, as yet unchristened, with Divison Day
waiting around perhaps out of curiosity or some
strange band-maternal instinct hitherto
unbeknowst to me, everyone anxious to leave and
sweaty with 14 hours till San Antonio and, hey:
everyone's clapping. We're poor. We're happy. And
Ryan suggests a name. Considering the price and
the relative luxury, we agreed. We now drive the
And the Thing? Well, it's dissapointing. It's a
pseudo mummified explorer, under a glass case
covered in bird shit. I just saved you a dollar. I
wish Patrick could've been there.
But then again, no I don't.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Here's the situation: we're trundling toward
Phoenix after a three hour detour (not to be
confused with a three hour tour) wherein we were
waylayed by the border patrol, two mechanics
who shut their shops as soon as we cruised in, atop
a tow truck, naturally, finally found one guy who,
after originally being unable to find the culprit
that sidelined Patrick Stewart, opened the hood
again and pronounced the transmission "fucked."
Now, your typical transmission runs about two
grand and, since this lemon only cost us two and a
half to begin with, well, that's not really a viable
option. Neither is renting, since that'd be twice as
much and we'd be left with a stranded Sir Patrick
and nothing for our next journey around the
States. Ixnay on that too. What we're left with
then is the unfortunate necessity of actually
buying another van. Which eats shit, obviously. The
big issue is that we pretty much have to do this
tomorrow, in Phoenix, and figure out a way to
ditch this infuriating piece of machinery, then play
a show that evening. Honestly, I'm a mess. I'm
shaking my fist at the Gods. But it's this or cancel
the tour and we aren't willing to do that. We'll
steal circus elephants and ride them to New York
if we have to. At this point, that's probably our
second best option.
On a lighter and quasi-related note, I'm reading the
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy right now. On the
cover of the eponymous book, there are two
words: Don't Panic. Good advice if you can follow
it. Don't Sink Into A Hole of Self-Pity and
Righteous Anger is also good advice at this
juncture. I've got a roommate who's fond of
saying, "at least you aren't picked shrapnel out of
your ass." That's another good thing to keep in
Man. I don't know. I usually have a misguided, silly,
and sometimes-infuriating-to-others faith that
everything will work out just fine but that faith is
being tested right now. Cross your fingers for us,
say some prayers our way, and stick a few
needles in the eyes of that voodoo doll of the
CEO of Ford for us too, while you're at it.
Oh yeah: if there's anyone in Phoenix who has a
free van, we'd really, really appreciate it. We
promise to immortalize you in song.
In a strange twist of fate, we've broken down at the Border Patrol
station ten miles outside of Yuma. I'm dangerously close to boycotting
Arizona. We've got triple A on the way so we can get towed back to Yuma
and have our alternator replaced. How do we know it's the alternator?
Well, because this has happened before. That sound like a little Casius
Clay crippling the interior of your engine? That's an alternator, dying
miserably, without friends and family to mourn in. Now, we sit in this
fetid sweatbox and wait for a tow. This afternoon sucks my ass.
In which Birdmonster ponders air conditioning, enters Arizona at 20 miles per hour, and yammers on endlessly, like the Granpa it will one day be
Perhaps you are familiar with the 4-60. In fact, I can almost assure you
that you are, even if you have a different and less fantastic name for
it. Here's the skinny: if you're driving through southern Arizona in the
middle of August and you don't have working air conditioning, you're a)
a moron, b) us, and c) driving 60 with all four windows down, hence, the
4-60. It works better than driving through the desert with your windows
up, sweating like a penguin in a boiler room, but, well, let's just say
that it doesn't work that well. There's a reason I have my deoderant in
a hip holster.
That's where we're headed as I write this: Arizona. Depressed, runty
plants? They've got those. Professional sports teams named after
sweltering celestial bodies? Them too. Hilariously overstocked gas
stations? Every thirty miles. This is the only state I've ever visited
where gas stations contain geodes, wrought-iron amphibians, and
pay-per-view archeological curiosities. We'll be there in mere hours, so
long as the 8 doesn't destroy our radiator. Which it tried to do last
time. And then there was that...unpleasantness at the border. Those
dogs: olfactory geniuses.
So indeed, what have we done in the past two days? Well, I've been
cultivating my Rip Van Winkle impression, we've been playing loud and
cozy shows, life and Patrick Stewart roll on, unabated. We've done
Southern California the last two evenings, both with D-Day, both without
a working tamborine, which, strangely enough, makes me feel a bit naked.
I like jangling things that you can slam on non-jangling things. Maybe I
can buy a new one at a gas station in Arizona.
At any rate, the shows: our night at Spaceland was our best Los Angeles
show in recent memory for a variety of reasons. First off, it didn't
smell like a spore culture. Last time? I was afraid just breathing was
mildewing my lungs. Secondly, we had a great sound guy, so we sounded
great. It's nice how that works out, ain't it? A bad sound man can make
a well-played show into the musical equivalent of warm lemonade. Sure,
it's still lemonade, but it tastes all wrong and when the glass is
finished, you just aren't that happy about having drank it. Third, all
the other bands were fantastic (not always the case, you know. In LA,
the bad ones usually come dressed in leather chaps and wear their
affection for Motley Crue on their sleeves). Lastly, KCRW presented the
show, and they're one of the few great radio stations left on the dial,
so that was nice.
We bolted that evening rather than languishing in SoCal midday traffic
and I, being a backseater at that point, continued cultivating the Rip
Van Winkle impression I just mentioned. Somehow, the entire next day was
spent playing piano, eating a bagel, and going to Sav-On. Go figure.
Some days just slip away before you know the even started. Our show that
night (last night, actually) was fun, if only because Dave & I grew up
down here, so you can always count on a few surprise characters coming
out of the woodwork. I find it interesting hearing what these once-close
friends are doing with themselves. Like, one's a paleontologist, another
guy sells patio heating, and a different guy said something involving
the word "nuclear" before I gave in to hopeless confussion. And then,
you know, I get to pull a Velvet Underground and say "well me, I'm in a
rock and roll band." Simple pleasures abound.
But paleontology? How cool. Dead dinosaurs: not just used to power your
car. I might pretend to be one at my high school reunion. Either that or
the guy who plays the horn before every horse race. Now there's a job.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Bloody fingernails? Sleeping on the carpet? Sense
of confused displacement? Yes. Back on tour we
are. (Ignore the fact I just sounded like Yoda, if
you wouldn't mind). I didn't fully realize it until
this morning, when I woke up sore and confused
after last night's proper kick off in Anaheim, where
there was lots of loudness, pissed off waitresses,
and hair-dye. In fact, even though we've been
preparing for weeks and we've lined up all our little
ducks, this trip still took me by surprise. All of a
sudden it was two in the morning, my laundry
wasn't dry, and I realized I'd forgotten to pay any
of my bills. A bummer, certainly, but I figure I
need the money more than Verizon does. Plus, I
think I could beat up their goons. Especially if they
look like that four-eyed pantywaist on their
I drove yesterday, for the sake of tradition.
Tevya would be proud. I think I've taken the
innagural down-towards-L.A. shift every tour.
Why? Because I love sucker-punch lane changing,
pointless traffic jams, and that stretch in the
middle where everything smells like tar, french
fries, or manure. That's why, silly. We made a
gentleman's bet regarding what the overall mileage
of the journey will be and put in 400 yesterday.
Guesses range from 8400 to 11,000. Daunting,
certainly, but, like Calvin said in the last,
bittersweet comic Bill Watterson ever wrote, "It's
a wonderful world, Hobbes ol' buddy. Let's go
exploring." Patrick Stewart, so far, has leaked
nothing but some excess gas (par for the course)
and, I say, if you make it over the grapevine, you
can make it anywhere. It's like New York that
way. But only that way.
So, Anaheim: 'twas a good start. It was an all
ages, alcohol-free good time. Like a Mormon
barbeque full of well dressed high schoolers. We
were without any of our tourmates, a situation
which gets rectified this evening, and I had the
pleasure of seeing some old friends I hadn't seen in
five years, one who I saw recently but who is
fleeing the city-sized strip mall known as Tustin
for Costa Rica in a few short weeks, and I got to
meet Gasoline Hobo. A weird thing about
the internets: you can know odd and personal
things about people you've met once in your life
and you almost feel stalker-y mentioning them
when you do finally meet. It's like when you had
that pen pal from Austria they assigned you in
middle school and you asked him if there really are
koalas everywhere and he wrote you back and
reminded you that you're a moron. Oh, that wasn't
you? Hmmm. Must've been me then.
Tonight: Spaceland with the venerable Divison
Day. I broke my tamborine last night (and
thankfully not my hand), so I will be stealing
theirs and likely breaking that as well. Spaceland
also means delicious, BYOB Thai food next door.
I'll be getting the Silver Kindling and basking in its
salty glory. Of course, Spaceland must open its
doors first. Which is what I'm waiting for. At least
I'm drinking coffee and sweating and listening to
Rod Stewart croon "Forever Young" while I'm
waiting. I think I like this song. It's no Lady in Red,
of course, but with soft rock, you must enjoy
what you can.
Monday, August 14, 2006
But, yes: we're back. And, with that, only for about eighteen hours here, as we leave for Anaheim tomorrow, the official kick-off of a rather lengthy jaunt across the United States and parts of Canada. And by parts, I mean two cities, but, well, because we're playing Canada, we can legitimately claim an International Tour, which makes us sound like spies or pirates or pirate spies---basically, anything that doesn't insinuate that we're in fact four dangerously-close-to-bums* hoping to make in home without lame beards or a smoldering Patrick Stewart.
Where was I? Ah yes: Touring. Canada. We were touring with Division Day when they tried to sneak across the border using ignomious tactics and were banned from our Northern neighbor for a a full year. Thankfully, we didn't try that, and instead spent the night in The Castle and the morning at the Original Pancake House and the rest of the tour scoffing and mocking Division Day for all of the above. Poor saps. My point though: we don't really know how we're getting into Canada. There may be some sort of form to fill out or a special soft-shoe you have to perform at the border but I know neither. Maybe we'll sneak across as one of our innumerable and completely non-serious side projects: System of a Ho-Down, Memory of the Oversoul, The Electric Corpse of the Shemale Windigo. Maybe we'll cruise through without a care. I'm not sure. But lump that one into the "things we need to discover by early September" category.
Speaking of the venerable D-Day, we played with them and a few other friends on Saturday night in Oakland. It was one of those incredibly long, all ages shows where the knees of the young are forever ruined. We had our little reunion with those Los Angelians** and it felt like going out to dinner with old friends. A very loud, dank dinner. With no food. Or privacy. Or menus. So, no: not the best analogy there. Moving onwards.
Today brings the boring things that you do before any big trip. You do your laundry, realizing that none of your socks match. You round up books, ignoring the intense desire to just bring your favorite novel and read it twelve times. You clean your room so you won't return to an unmade bed and a dangerously ancient coffee on your nightstand. You find all the crappy little battery chargers that seem necessary for travel these days: CD players, distortion pedals, cameras, iPods, cell phones, robot-puppy. Then, if you're me, you wait till 1 in the morning and shove them all in a giant duffel bag because you spent the evening watching Simpsons reruns and drinking brandy instead of folding your underoos. Oh, and a haircut. I need one of those.
So here's the plan: do all of the above. Forget only the things that can be forgotten. Finish the tour poster. Fold some t-shirts so we can get gasoline on the way. And then, we're gone. 40 days. Goodnight chair. Goodnight old shoes. Goodnight moon.
As some surely know, we do try & keep this here blog dealy updated while we're away. Stories, musings, and, since we're finally properly equipped, some photos from the 8,000 mile odyssey ahead. Leave some comments, stop on by, ignore us completely: do what you will. Hopefully: see you soon. Until Anaheim.
*not, of course, to be mistaken for hobos. We've learned the subtle differences.
**Los Angelesians? L.A.liens? I don't know. At any rate it's no "Glaswegian," so I'm not incredibly concerned.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
And like that, he's gone. Except, well, I'm not an internationally feared, coal-hearted, extremely imaginative crime boss
So it's prep for tour time. I've gotta whip together a poster, get my pernially broken amp fixed, do the supreme load of laundry, pretend I can fix a sour, broken melodica with a screwdriver, no expertice, and the mechanical knowhow of a blind twelve year old, stock up on all manner of environmentally hazardous van liquids, and hopefully, find an extra bench seat for Patrick Stewart so we can get a trailer and not freak out into claustrophic seizures by week five. In other words: lots of expensive errands.
In fact, the Gods just smiled on me. Instead of forcing me to shlep my amp an hour north of the city, I got a call back from the local gentlemen who "fixed" it last time. I'm gearing up for some dissapointed haggling. And frowning. Last time it was fixed, she lived for about a week and a half. Not really acceptible. Hence the frowning. And the annoyed insistence on free repair. Of course, I've never been that good at this sort of thing. I go in with big ideas and bigger gripes and end up paying full price sheepishly because, well, some part of me thinks that if you shit on someone's work they've got no reason to do a good job the next time. Which might be true. But maybe I'm approaching this the wrong way. Maybe I need to be more threatening. You know, walk in with my brass knuckles on and a garden hose full on BBs, just smiling at the guy. Yeah. Too bad we don't have a hose.
This, sadly, is going to my last post until Friday-ish, maybe the weekend. I'm going to Reno with a banjo on my knee. The big question is, while there, when do I give in? When do I, the guy with a pitiable income and a downright depressing savings account, decide that a half hour on the craps table is a great idea? I'd say one day. Or four beers. Whichever comes first.
In the meantime (which, remember, was that one Spacehog song? I listened to it a few weeks ago and it's really fairly crappy. Except the bass line)---In the meantime, visit the bands I linked below, our good friend Gasoline Hobo, my imaginary good friend Jon Carroll, and whatever other websites look perhaps vaguely related to your job because they're text based and lack copious flash games. T minus one week till tour. I can almost feel my arteries clogging.
Monday, August 07, 2006
This tour, we have the stupendous good fortune of touring with four different bands we thoroughly enjoy and have, to varying degrees, already met, befriended, and concocted secret band handshakes with. Since we're spending weeks with each of the following bands, I thought I'd do some introductions or, re-introductions, as the case may be, since they'll be appearing here constantly (whether they like it or not). And, our insulated little four man universe will be larger because of them. It's all about love round here.
Who: Division Day
When: August 16th- 24th & September 21st- 26th
Where: California, Arizona, Texas & the Pacific Northwest, respectively
Who part two: Division Day has the keys to the Cutlass. They have the keys to the castle. They have the keyboards without cases, which often results in finding severed & broken white keys on the floor of their van. They have a high beard to non-beard ratio. We've played with them more than anyone else ever and, suffice it to say, we're excited. They're lovable, their album is magnificent, and we often bombard them on stage during "Tap Tap Click Click." They return the favor on "Alabama." The song, not the state.
Who: The Sammies
When: August 26th thru September 7th
Where: The South, through Florida, and up to New York City
Who part two: The Sammies are from North Carolina, a state famous for furniture, hoisery, tobacco, and college basketball. We played with them only once, somewhere in Ohio, a state famous for heavy metal and LeBron James. There were sound issues, pedal problems, and much scowling. They were unhappy. We, on the other hand, were incredibly impressed. If that's a bad show, I'm really excited about two weeks of good ones. Also: their website: quite fancy.
Who: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
When: September 7th thru September 18th
Where: New England, New York, perhaps Canada
Who part two: We met SSLYBY at our CD release show back in April. Sadly, during said show, I was rather enebriated, so I didn't have a chance to hang out, chat, and massage their little indie-rock noggins, but there will be time. 11 days, to be exact. And yes, what a name. It's enough to make me love Boris Yeltsin for no concrete reason.
Who: Catfish Haven
When: September 7th thru September 18th
Where: New England, New York, perhaps Canada
Who part two: As you may or may not have noticed, the Catfish Haven dates are identical to the SSLYBY dates. That's because we're going to be a three-headed hydra of rock-death. These boys sound kind of like Otis Redding----all motowny goodness, female back-up singers, trumpets, the works. Definately a one-of-a-kind sound these days. They're the only band we have yet to play with, although their bassist stopped by for a visit in Chicago last time around when this whole tour was just a sleep-deprived hallucination so I can't vouch for their live show, but the album just sounds like it kicks ass live. I may just wear a dress & stick my mop up in a beehive & do a little background singing yet.
So, that's everyone. Well, not quite. There'll be local openers here & there and, of course, there's that show where we're opening for Queensryche, but otherwise, that's it.
Friday, August 04, 2006
Let me put this in perspective. You're at work. Everyone you talk to on the phone is a bitcher or a moaner and they all seem to have decided that you are sub-human and therefore in full need of their entire personal warehouse of invective and slander. Your coworkers are exuding a fog of all-pervasive sullenness and bickering like a Noel Coward couple. It's always 10:42. No matter what.
And then, you take the beer lunch. The sandwich is on a stale white roll, the ham came from a plastic bag, and lettuce is tasteless and crunchy for crunchiness's sake. The TVs are playing a variety of low-rent sporting events: World's Strongest Man, World Series of Degenerate Gamblers, Women's Billiards. But none of this matters. The sandwich is warm and the beer is cold and you aren't at work and your lunch break should've ended ten minutes ago but you push back in your chair and watch some pseudo-obese Scandinavian throw kegs over a 30 foot castle-wall and curse the half-finished Thursday crossword and take your sweet ass time.
Then, you return to work. Suddenly, it's 1:45 and nothing is bothering you. Everyone is going ballistic and you're in a zenlike state of peace and serenity. You aren't drunk by any stretch of the imagination. The important thing is you've left the crappy confines of officedom and taken some time out and the rest of the day is nothing but feet on your desk and the calm completion of your necessary duties.
And that's my assignment today. It's Friday. Have the beer lunch. And call me in the morning.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
A rather gung-ho recommendation. Plus, yet another (but semi-uneventful) chapter in the life of Sir Patrick
It's been like that for me lately with the Salton Sea. I had a vague recollection of hearing the two words in conjunction before, but that was only because I had the first Hot Snakes album, wherein there's an epic, percussion-heavy ode about that once gorgeous resort, now festering shithole. Then, a couple days ago, I got a book called "Eccentric America" which talks about the place in all it's preposterous grandeur, even devotes one of its twenty full color pictures to a man-made, rather colorful mountain there. And then, last night, I got invited to see a movie about the very same place. By next Tuesday, I'll probably own property there.
Of course, I went. When events outside your control line up to teach you something, you'd better pay attention. Plus, the movie was narrated by John Waters and, it's always been a personal philosophy of mine that you give full attention to anyone who pioneered the use of obese coprophilic transexuals as protagonists in their films.
At the risk of going all Peter Travers on you: See this movie. It's hilarious and sad and informative and there's a dude named Hunky Daddy in it and, since Salton CIty is essentially Palm Springs's neightbor, Sonny Bono* makes an appearance. I could tout this thing all day and not succeed at conveying it's total and supreme awesomeness, so I'm going to stop. But seriously: watch it. Call in sick from work, cancel your honeymoon, leave your grandma waiting on her front porch, let your kids ride the city bus home. Do what needs to be done.
Unfortunately, this sometimes fetid wonderland is out of striking distance on this tour. It would be worth stopping in, I assure you, but we'll be passing it on the South on one of our most intensive driving days and, we don't have the hours to spare. Speaking of driving, we got Patrick Stewart back yesterday. And...
She has a clean bill of health. We were perplexed. Our mechanic was perplexed. The glaze of filth on the back door from the last oil-leak debacle was perplexed. Maybe yesterday's letter was answered by the Gods. Perhaps we were overreacting to the giant plume we trailed for half of our last tour. Maybe cars are sentient beings with immune systems. We haven't the faintest. For now, all we can do is drive her, watch the meters, and embrace religion. If you see me at your door in a short sleeve white shirt, a black tie, and a backpack, don't answer the bell.
*He was a big advocate for the area, so he figures pretty heavily in the documentary. One particularly haggard lady talks of him with a twinkle in her eye before deadpanning: "Too bad he went skiing."
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Whoa. Ok. I know we're scaring you. But we're fans and you'd do your fans a really big favor, right? See, little do you know, but since about six months ago, you've been our van. I know, it's startling. We gave you a few breaks so you could go off and be Professor Xavier and Great Stag in Bambi 2 (really?), and we begged you, begged you not to do that voice-over on American Dad, but, your agent said it was easy work for good money, so you did it and we let you do it because we thought it would make you happy. I sincerely hope it did. Because it made no one else happy. In fact, it depressed me. Severely. Those episodes forced me to take Zoloft with every meal. For three weeks, I basically just huddled in a corner, shivering and whispering "why Patrick? Why?"
So, come on. Come be our van again. Or, at least, buy us a new one. You've got a lot of money and, well, we don't. We tried driving you home from Forrestville yesterday & you stalled in the middle of an intersection. And after a two month break to boot. It was a little disillusioning. Like when I drove through Armstrong Forrest and realized that's where George Lucas filmed half of the Empire Strikes Back. Yup. Endor is Sonoma County. There goes my suspension of disbelief.
You're at the shop now, Patrick, and I hope the surgery goes alright. We're counting on you for the next couple months. We're gonna need you to pull through. The Patrick Stewart I know and love wouldn't just crap out and die right before his biggest role. He'd sew up his oil pan, solder the hole in his transmission, and give the best goddamn performance of his life. So get to it. I know you got it in you.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Take that Walter Cronkite.
With an entire news day loquaciously bitch-slapped, we move along to things which are less important but more personal and, quite frankly, way more enjoyable. We speak of freaks and weirdos. Specifically, the freaks and weirdos scattered throughout the country and chronicled in a travel book I received yesterday* called "Eccentric America." For example, the aforementioned Corn Palace is in there, along with various lunatics, odd architectural hot spots (the Salton Sea, for example---which I'm seeing a movie about tomorrow night, and about which Hot Snakes have a really good song), museums of uselessness, festivals of the bizarre, many World's Largest Insert Stupid Item Here, and, really, all manner of preposterous shit. Sadly, "The Thing" is no where to be found, which means either a) it's truly a total waste of time or b) the writer of this travelogue didn't quite have three quarters when she made it there. Odds are, we're looking at a). But we're going. Mark my words.
I tried making a poster for the tour last night, but, upon reaching the scanning phase, it became increasingly obvious that my scanner is in its death throes, so, after exhausting my technical expertise (read: unplugging it, re-plugging it), I perused the book. It's fairly long and I've made only marked headway, but highlights include:
a) Dr. Evermor's Forevertron in Wisconsin. Basically a giant sculpture which the guy who built it swears will one day shoot him into outerspace. Or maybe it constantly shoots him into outerspace. The book's a little unclear here. All I know is: Giant Scrap metal Deathray. Score two points for "Dr." Evermor.
b) Weird Abandoned Biosphere Thingy in Arizona. We've got a four hour drive between Tucson and Phoenix and this puppy is on the way. Apparently, this was a God's honest attempt at a real Biosphere project, but the oxygen ran out or Pauly Shore came and now, it's abandoned. I may never leave.
c) Carhenge! in Nebraska. It's stonehenge, made out of cars. Yep. That's it.
d) The World's Largest Bureau in North Carolina. Where the incredibly stupid and the incredibly awesome collide.
You know, I really can't do this book justice. All's I know is: I will be campaigning for copious detours. And what better excuse is there when you cruise in late to a soundcheck?
"I'm sorry, but we got stuck in the Bread and Puppet Theatre's production of Pericles. Do you guys do DI or mike on the bass amp?"