Arizona was the last contiguous state admitted into the Union, is the political home of the least-frightening-but-not-by-much Republican Presidential candidate, and the roost of a fatally flawed but lovable basketball team. It is a place, much like Palm Springs, that was largely uninhabitable before the advent of air conditioning and, much like Palm Springs, it is a place that is teeming with old men in funny pants and old ladies who give you those hard candies that look like strawberries but taste like that fruit-flavored wax dentists use. It is also a state that, historically, has crippled Birdmonster: we've had three vans over the life of our little band and Arizona---no joke---has crippled every one, including the one we were forced to buy inside Arizona, after the 48th state reduced our prior van to the vehicular equivalent of a tubercular leper. In the 2006-07 fiscal year, Birdmonster actually contributed 2% of Arizona's gross state product, barely behind crappy Southwestern, coyote-themed art and far ahead of the Cardinals, who, by all accounts, ceased being a professional sports team around the time Tecmo Super Bowl came out.
A thing like that can give you a complex. As soon as the border is in sight, I say three Hail Marys, a Shema Yisreal or two, and a Salah. I also sacrifice a cloven-hoofed beast, just to cover our bases.
So it was a surprise when, this trip, while still covered in pig's blood, we made it to the show without anything approaching a catastrophe. We exited the van gingerly (I expected the earth to rend apart, personally) and loaded out with extreme care. We played a show to more than six stalwarts and nothing exploded or melted, then sat around all evening waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Amazingly, it never did.
Now, I'm not saying we've conquered Arizona. That'd be like saying Apollo Creed got some good punches in against Ivan Drago. But what we did do is travel from one side of Arizona to the other without hemorrhaging cash, played a damn fine show to some damn fine folks, and lived to tell the story. Special thanks to Kevin from So Much Silence for putting the evening together, letting us sleep on his various couches, and play his hilariously out-of-tune piano at three thirty in the morning. Kudos.
Texas, on the other hand, has always been kind to the Monster. Whereas Arizona has traditionally stabbed us in the shower, Texas has always healed our wounds with energetic concert goers, incredibly cheap beer, and the total absence of fruits or vegetables. And, where Arizona had once melted my bass amp only to have Texas provide another (albeit far more expensive) one, Texas once again came through for us in the clutch, this time with another mandolin. The lesson, of course, is that Texas giveth, while Arizona taketh away. Well, hopefully not anymore. We're traveling back through AZ in three or four days. I hope this doesn't bite us in the ass. I'll be wearing chain mail.
So, yeah, a mere four days after the shattered corpse of my mandolin was found in the darkness of our van back seat, a San Antonio store called Spacetone Music provided a new, strangely similar, potato-bug looking mando. And, although this new one was roughly a third of the price, it's somehow far superior, namely because you can play it above the fourth fret without it sounding like a middle school orchestra playing Hot Cross Buns. This was rather fortuitous, as we had several acoustic thingies to do in Austin at South By this year and, while we all love the banjo, if I play it too much, I start wearing overalls and getting this urge to eat Funyuns.
(And by the way, when we get the recordings of those sessions, we'll post them. Hopefully later in the week. Back to the regularly scheduled blog.)
San Antonio, as always, was lovely. Instead of the Limelight, this time around we played the Rock Bottom Tattoo Bar, a decidedly grimy venue whose floor was covered in some strange colored water that was dripping from a ceiling made seemingly of garbage bags and duct tape. We played with some great acts, including the Whigs who are worth crowding the stage, trampling toddlers, and elbowing your mother for.
Austin followed San Antonio and Dallas followed that, but, judging by the carpal tunnel cramping I'm getting, I've been typing too long. We shall return shortly with stories of SXSW and our show in Dallas (easily the most fun I've had all year). Until then, I'll be walking around the greater Dallas area in my Warriors hat, hoping not to get pummeled. Au revoir.