Friday, October 31, 2008

In which Birdmonster turns Canadian lemons into a contest - with fabulous prizes

Canada, that land of Michael Moore's wettest dreams and birthplace of the only sport to make prominent use of brooms (apologies to Quiddich), hates it some Birdmonster. As chronicled recently, we were yet again shut out of the country we share our northern border for reasons that can be best described as "arbitrary" and "asinine."

The whole ordeal (in addition to a similarly infuriating adventure two years back) has turned me off to the whole country. I'd rather vacation in Bosnia.

But we also realize that perhaps unlucky circumstances have conspired against us. Maybe we're being unfair. So, in the interest of further knowledge and a better understanding of a country that is, to quote the great philosopher E-40, "on my shit list, my rest in piss list," we thought we could get your input.

Here's what we want: your Canada stories, whether they're from the 11th circle of hell known as the Windsor border crossing or, conversely, yarns that redeem the place, should such things exist. We, the jury, will gather evidence and present what we feel is the best (read: most amusing) anecdote over on the blog, plus send that fantastic human some free signed stuff for setting the record straight.

So, which is it? Canada: the land of stability, hockey, and antlered mammals. Or Canada: grotesque hockey-loving freedom-haters? You make the call.

Please send your stories in to: - contest deadline Sunday, 11/9/08, and we'll post the winning entry on our blog the week of on 11/10/08.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

In which Birdmonster returns to Canada, or at least its border. Then the suckiness began

Amongst the record-defying majesty of dolphinboy, the pre-prepubescent gymnasts of the host nation, and the perfunctory ass-whoopings of American Basketball, I rediscovered my fondness for the Olympics this past summer. There's something incredibly fascinating about the fittest people from every cranny of the globe competing in events as patently bogus as trampolining. And, like many people, I found myself not only rooting for my home nation but for plucky athletes from Monaco, Guam, and unpronounceable former-Soviet Republics. That, I think, what the Olympics are supposed to be about: spirited competition on the one hand, global tolerance and unity and other hippie-type shit on the other. I wasn't rooting against anyone, certainly. After all, most Olympic athletes recede into the shadowy obscurity of Home Depot after spending two weeks competing and screwing and subsisting solely on McDonald's. So I cheered for everyone. I felt good. I was a Citizen Of The World. Not anymore though. From now on, I root against Canada.

You heard that Canada? From now on, when a Canadian diver bellyflops after losing her equilibrium on the high-dive, I laugh. When the Canadian hockey team plays Russia, I root for Ivan Drago's man-spawn. John Candy? I just threw King Ralph out the window of the van. I defenestrate you, King Ralph. SCTV? Forget it. You're gone. And don't bring up Alex Trebek. He and I are no longer speaking. Not until he brings back the mustache, at the very least.

See my fine northern neighbors, it's not that I hate you. In fact, I've enjoyed the company of nearly all the Canadians I've ever met. I like Neil Young. I like the Arcade Fire. And syrup. I like that too. But the people who work your borders? The English language, colorful as it is, cannot fully express our sickened anger. Words like "hateful," "petty," and "punchable" come to mind. So does "anus-brained."

A couple years back, we had a dust-up with the Border Patrol in Windsor. (I've linked it here and found rereading it weirdly cathartic). Long story short is that we ran into a spiteful, bitesized powertripper who, after identifying the Cheeto detritus on the floor of our Chevy as weed, tore the van apart in hopes of finding some way of fucking us over. He succeeded in that we didn't declare our merch at a window of a man who couldn't speak English and never asked us about any commercial goods at all and could therefore claim we were "accidental smugglers" and attempt to legally extort about a thousand dollars from a band that was playing for dinner, drinks, and hotel money. Ever since, he's been my first round selection in the "People I'd Pay Good Money To Watch Eat Shit" draft.

Today, we met his sister. If not his biological sister, his spiritual sister. If not that, his wife, and if so, their children will destroy us all.

It went like this:

We drove across the 96, across crossed not across? the Bridge to Canada, and we got up to that first window where the English Mangler began our travails last time around. I was driving; we were prepared.

"What's your purpose in Canada?" he asked. "To play music," we replied. "Do you have any firearms?" he wondered. "Of course not," we answered. "What's in the van?" he ventured. "Instruments," we told him. "And merch! For the love of God, we have merch." He smiled. He looked like Victor Krumm from Harry Potter 4 but in the end, he was on our side.

Next up were the customs agents, cohorts of the vile little fuck who sent us away during our last attempt to breach the Canadian border. They brought "the dog" who barked wildly. While agents were scurrying through our van looking for pretzels and puffy cheese things that looked like narcotics, we chatted up the other three agents who stood around getting paid. We learned that once, when Keith Richards was rolled for heroin in Toronto, part of his sentence was community service by way of a benefit show at the very place we were supposed to play that night. We sat by calmly while a female agent looked through my bag that contained a motley collection of Stephen King books, canned ham, and Cracker Barrel car games. We smiled. We joked. We reveled in our shared humanity. Sure, they destroyed the interior of our van looking for our phantom booty, but they found nothing. After all, we'd spent twenty minutes vacuuming the van out a Citgo for just such a contingency. We were, as I said, prepared.

These agents gave us a couple forms, made us pack up our van, and sent us Immigration. We were riding high. "This band is unstoppable!" I thought. I smiled. Almost done. This here's the easy part.

Then we met Her.

I use this word to denote only the gender of the anus-brained bitch-beast who would have been edited out of an especially absurd Kafka novel. In fact, it all begins with novels. Knowing from experience that the Canadian border crossing can be an interminable affair, we'd all brought the books we were reading into the building, having read all the Canadian Border Patrol pamphlets ever printed last time we were detained. Literature in hand, we walked into her lair.

It went like this:

"Is there a reason you have those books?" she asked. Not "hello" or "can I see your paperwork?" but "Is there a reason you have those books?" Asked it, in fact, in the tone of a woman who's spent the last six years fighting a malt liquor hangover.

We looked at each other. "So that we've got something to read while we wait," we said.

"You don't need those. Take them to your car."

"Can't we just take them to the waiting room so we---"


This was going poorly.


In hindsight, I wished I would've peed on her through that space they push documents through. That would have at least given her a reason to treat us like shit. If you've heard the expression that someone obviously "woke up on the wrong side of the bed," it's definitely apt here. Except, she probably doesn't sleep in a bed. She probably sleeps in a cave littered with baby skulls.

But I didn't pee on her. None of us did. Instead, we split up, sending some back to the car to deposit the hated read-y-things and while the rest of us pushed her our passports.

Basically, what you need to picture here is this: there are three rooms. On the right is Customs, the left Immigration, and in the middle is a plastic holding pen where the sad victims of bureaucracy wait to be yelled at by anus-brained bitch-beasts. After dropping off our books and passports, we all gathered there, noted the defeated souls around us, and felt a keen sense of foreboding. After about five minutes, Dave noticed she never took our immigration papers and went back in to give it to her. From my vantage point, everything was muffled talking and gesticulating. Dave came back and informed us she hadn't started processing anything because she was, quote, waiting for us to get rid of our books. Now, that makes sense! Thanks, sug.

So we waited. We waited and didn't read since books are illegal in Canada. I contemplated "upper decking" the place---which consists of taking a crap in the upper chamber of a toilet, the part that doesn't flush---but then discovered their toilets didn't have tanks on top. Of course, I had to ask permission to even use the bathroom, which was at first denied because I asked the people at Customs (a full eight of them sitting there doing nothing) who said that they couldn't buzz me in, regardless of the sign that said "ASK CUSTOM AGENT TO BUZZ YOU IN." Immigration, he informed me, had to let me shit. I laughed. I shat. I rejoined my bandmates in the plastic holding pen.

"Birdmonster," she called through the intercom. Dave went in.

Here it's important to know about the two types of clubs, as far as the Canadian Border Patrol is concerned. One are exempt clubs---clubs that sell tickets, host shows regularly, and, if they are small enough, do not require work permits to come play. The other are non-exempt clubs, clubs which, from the government's view, are really just bars that sometime have shows and that you do need a visa to play. Make sense? I didn't think so. We were informed that the club in Toronto was exempt while the one in Montreal was not.

"Well, we played that club last time without a permit," we said. She didn't care. She looked up the club on the internet and she didn't think so. "Which website?" we asked. She didn't remember. "Our tourmates went through two hours ago with identical paperwork," we offered. We were informed that they didn't. Of course, they did. Of course, reality has little power in a place such as thing. We offered to cancel the Montreal show; Anus-Brain said she wouldn't believe us. We tried calling some clandestine Canadian organization that determines which clubs are exempt; they were closed. We showed her our contract and our paperwork that said the club was exempt; she refused to believe these legitimacy of said papers. We called our booker and the club, begging for help.The club (the Zoobizarre in Montreal, for the record) tried to be helpful.

"I could fax her our Myspace page," he suggested.


"Well, that's what I did with the Rumble Strips. They can see our schedule and our size and that we have a whole bunch of shows and that we qualify as exempt."

Now, that's an idea...I guess.

So we got the fax number and the fax arrived. Bitchdevil looked at it intently, the tiny obese gerbil of her brain spinning itself to exhaustion. She summoned us once again. Pete, at this point, had been crowned our "Spokesperson," because she refused to speak to all of us, apparently worried about burdening us with her brilliance more than once, so Pete alone went in and absorbed the brunt of the jackassery.

It went like this:

While the fax she received, the contract we showed her, and the exemption paperwork she was given suggested that everything we'd said was Gospel, the ineffable website she couldn't remember claimed otherwise. These competing verdicts boggled Anus-brain's mind. She decided that our situation should be deemed "confusing" and that in a "confusing" situation, she was allowed to do, well, whatever the fuck she wanted to. Which, in case you're playing along at home, was kicking us the hell out.

Of course, Pete asked for her supervisor. After acting extremely put-out by the suggestion that she may not have acted in good faith, she let us speak to a woman who was simply a more polite flavor of worthlessness. She told us that since she wasn't there during our first conversation with Anus-Brain (a feat which would have required omnipotence), she couldn't necessarily overrule a verdict based on an arbitrary, still unknowable website, which made about as much sense as everything else had up till this point. We were then "asked" to sign a form which said we were "allowed" to leave a country we never actually fully made it into. We tried to stall for a call back from our booker or some other deus ex machina but were told that if we waited around after being asked to leave we'd be detained---in other words, if we didn't leave, they wouldn't let us leave.

So we left. We came back to America, where the beer is cold, where the S'barro's is barely warm, and where we can travel to and fro without being subjected to the sort of logic that would confuse Lewis Carroll. We canceled Toronto and Montreal, not because we wanted to, but because Canada hates us and everything we stand for. The question is: do we, like Jesus of Nazareth, turn the other cheek? Or do we, like Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, nurse an unhealthy grudge that will eventually drive us to grimacing vengeance?

I think we'll sleep on it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Newport KY show cancelled...sadness

Due to a sore throat of our lovely tourmates' troubadour, tonight's show
in Newport/Cincy has been cancelled. We're scrambling for a new spot
and, if successful, we shall let you know.

Sincerest apologies,


Sunday, October 26, 2008

In which Birdmonster recounts various adventures, mocks mythical heroes, and bets something, yet wins nothing

I know this much: a stupid bet deserves a stupid wager. I also know that nothing stops a stupid argument like a stupid bet. Children, instinctively, know this. "Wanna bet?" was a favorite rejoinder in my monkey bar days and, if the kid I heard at Cracker Barrel this morning is any indication, the phrase remains popular in the kiddy vernacular, alongside "Your mom!" and the golden oldie "I don't shut up, I grow up, and when I see your face, I throw up."

It should go without saying that, yes, we get into silly arguments. And when we do, we bet lotto tickets. It's like betting for a chance to gamble. Actually, it's exactly like that. And there's the outside chance that you'll become a thousandaire, when, in reality, you're basically wiping your ass with a dollar. Everybody wins. Even the Wisconsin school system.

Me? I'm a roll. I won a scratcher a while ago betting Dave that Palin wouldn't drop out of the race. Then we doubled down on whether she'd debate in the first place. And the scratch off I've got in my lap at this very moment? Won off Peter for insisting that Darth Vader said "When we last met, I was but a learner; now I am the mastah." That might be exact, but Pete swore it was "student" and not "learner" while I remembered it was George Lucas and not someone who had a passing familiarity with conversational English. Easy money, in other words.

I'm telling you this because I'm bored. Oh so bored. And because I'm saving the lotto ticket for the end of this blog. That's what passes for excitement in my life. Sad, I know. I'm sorry for dragging you down with me. At least it's warm down here. Warm and smelly.

But I digress. Or rather, I haven't started saying anything of import at all. Either way. Where were we last? I believe it was California. That was a bizarre trip, honestly---not bad in any way, being that its the home state for three of us and contains the hometown for all of us---but because we went home in the middle of a tour. This was a first. The layover in San Francisco was barely twenty-four hours but it was incredibly rejuvenating. I ate food from places called "kitchens." I slept on a bed that didn't feel stuffed with hooker cadavers. I woke up to something other than "Housekeeping!"

Plus, I picked up my absentee voter envelope. I hear there's someone named "Alabama" running for President, which makes me pretty excited. Also, I'm apparently supposed to know four different people who deserve a seat on the San Francisco Community College Board, which is a lot like asking me to choose the four people with the coolest name. Rodel Rodis? You've got my vote. In fact, I'm just voting for you four times. I'm writing you in for President too. Sorry, "Alabama." You lose!

Of course, since California, we've gone back to the East Coast. In between, we enjoyed the Pacific Northwest, which was completely gorgeous in mid October, all red leaves and fog---the hills looked like they were on fire, and---well, to be fair, we're not on the East Coast yet. For some reason, my brain lumps Chicago and Minneapolis in with Boston and Philadelphia. It's wrong, I know. We're in the midwest, have been since our hellish Seattle to Minnesota drive. Yeah. That's 1800 some-odd miles. You know that guy who ran a Marathon from Marathon to deliver a message back in the "olden days"? He's a bitch. I'd like to see him drive ten hours a day on a diet of Olive Garden and McDonald's.

Things have happened, of course. We got joshingly heckled by a pair of self-described "repugnant queens" in Portland---one of whom liked "Gummo," which, really, when somebody tells you that, walk backwards slowly but never take your eyes off their hands. We tried to eat at a Red Lobster before discovering that we were actually too poor for Red Lobster, then wept ourselves to sleep. We played a gamut of fantastic clubs, though the Doug Fir in Portland and the Casbah in San Diego are my personal favorites---the former of the pair is very "Twin Peaks-y" according to everyone else in the band who has, you know, seen "Twin Peaks." To me it looked like a creepy futuristic log cabin. Maybe those things are one in the same. I do not know.

I feel boring though. Really boring. I'm basically rotting in the van as we speak. My brain isn't working anymore. But wait! I've got this lotto ticket. It's called "Krazy Eights." Ok...scratching. Not an eight. Not an eight. Mayb---nope, that's a nine.

That's what we call an "anti-climax." I'm going to slink into the back seat and try to recover from my Gunslinger withdrawals with a new book. Have a fine Sunday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In which Birdmonster gets all fashionable, smiles at New Orleans, and finally finishes "The Gunslinger," thus giving me my life back

Some people are Abercrombie folks; others prefer H&M; still others opt for Nordstrom's or Salvation Army or, God forbid, Big Dogs. We've all got our own personal style, in other words, from the hipster who looks like she walked out a Pat Benetar video to the one-eyed cowboy with a taste for Wranglers and Carhart. But see, Fashion is fickle. What's cool now will be dreadfully lame in a month. That, when added to the simple fact of my overwhelming poorness, keeps me steered clear of trends like Crocs or those tribal earrings that are leaving an entire generation with saggy lobes their children will laugh at. So, call it "classy" or "chickenshit," I've tended to opt for the American Uniform: jeans, t-shirt, and some ratty sneakers. It's simple, it's easy, and, hell, we get free shirts at radio stations and via merch trades. What I'm saying is I don't really buy clothes anymore. I simply don't need to.

Unless I'm at The Thing.

On the surface, The Thing is an impressive gas station on the 10, a gas station which boasts advertisements for two hundred miles in both directions, billboards which would surely infuriate Abbey's Monkey Wrench Gang but which fill me with childlike joy and anticipation. The Thing, longtime readers might remember, is the first place our new van made it to after Patrick Stewart, our erstwhile lemon, died on the way to Phoenix. It's a magical place where you can pay 75 cents to see "The Thing" (a thing that doesn't even warrant capitalization, sadly) and spend much more on useless bric a brac to burden your friends and relatives with. Merry Christmas Dad: I got you a plastic die-cast gila monster. Thanks for sending me to college.

But the Thing is also all about Fashion. Last time around I got a shirt with glitter on it and what I thought was a unicorn. Upon closer inspection, it had no horn, which made it what I believe zoologists call a "horse." This time? Way more super awesome. It's a shirt with a giant tiger jumping at you, ready to tear your face off. But wait! If you turn around you see the tiger's ass and tail. Eat my shit Versace.

By the time we made it to Arizona, we were in the Tour Zone. Which is to say: used to spending eight hours sedentary in a van reading the Gunslinger (I've finished now, by the by), used to eating McDonald's at the last possible moment, used to stumbling out into a different climate each time we stop, used to playing music every evening. That first week is always a bit surreal---it takes a while for it to sink in that you're actually going to spend the next month and a half rolling across America. Part of me never believes it. By now, that part of me is dead. I left him in Pennsylvania so he could vote in a swing state. And also so he could hang out by the Rocky statue. I know what does me.

What I'm saying is that the shows themselves have all been, well, they've all been good. Not to toot our own horn, but by the time everyone's mentally settled into the aforesaid Tour Zone, we simply play better*. It's not just us, either. Every band we've ever played with gets better playing every night, simply by the serendipity of enjoyable repetition. It's like a good basketball team: you can throw Karl Malone and Gary Payton or the Lakers but without the time to gel, they end up losing to the Pistons. Just writing that makes me happy. And not simply because 'Sheed is involved, though, admittedly, that's at least 51% of the thing.

Last we chatted, we were just rolling into New Orleans and I was hoping that it resembled the vacation I took there not the ill-fated, mildewy hotel, aftermath of Katrina NOLA we visited as a band. And you know what? It was some place in between. Closer, certainly, to the lively and bizarre New Orleans of 2004 I vaguely remembered through a brandy milk punch induced haze. We played the House of Blues, which is a nice enough room and a venue kind enough to dole out meal tickets to the bands playing, but, really, do you want to be eating out a House of Blues in New Fucking Orleans? I don't. I want my fresh oysters, my proper gumbo. Eating at a House of Blues in New Orleans is like playing nickel slots at the Bellagio: you can do it, sure, but don't expect me not to heckle you.

In a spasm of indefatigable genius, we decided to go from the west to the east to the west to the east to the west coast this tour. Brilliant, I'm aware, but the refreshing postscript of this plan was that we were able to come home to California smack dab in the middle of the thing. I wrote that story, but really, we're already quite up there in paragraphs. Tomorrow, then. We're covering the entirety of North Dakota then, so I should have a minute or, say, seven hundred.

* Toot, toot.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

In which Birdmonster trades in Georgia, plays in Florida, and now is wallowing in a smelly smellhole in Loisianna

There's something off-putting about seeing a man drink while he's behind the wheel of a truck. It's like watching somebody build a home without blueprints or eat a bran muffin on the toilet: it's not just ignorant, it's aggressively idiotic.

We ran into one such man at a Penzoil in Adel, Georgia. We chatted him up. He wasn't driving at that time, but he looked like he was on mission to spend his off-day swerving through the streets of that tiny Southern town, careening off lamp posts, mailboxes, and Piggly Wigglys. That said, he was a happy drunk. He fingered us as a band with the greatest of ease and demanded a CD. We said, sure, but even with the "getting blotto in the driver's seat discount," it was still going to cost him ten bucks. Cashless, he offered to pay for a sixth of our oil change, which the Penzoil man agreed to, and, voila: some weird, three person pseudo-barter was enacted. It was like Burning Man, except there were no hairy armpitted womyn on mushrooms.

While we were testing the principles of a trade-based economy, we also have noticed the real economy is a clusterfuck of colossal proportions. Yes, yes: bad shit and heaps of it. The whole situation is unraveling so fast that we, men without newspapers, internet, or a coherent idea of which weekday it is, have been left behind. I'm so incredibly ignorant of how all this works that I'll refrain from analysis: just hope everyone out there is keeping their head up and investing in the only tried and true commodity left on the planet: Birdmonster t-shirts. Stockpile them while you can.

Right now, the South's unfolding into a kudzu-choked straight-away outside of Louisiana. The old-man beards of Spanish moss are fading behind us and New Orleans, in all it's culinary and musical splendor awaits us. I was lucky enough to visit this singular city before Katrina with my girl on what I used to call a "vacation" and now call a "ludicrous pipe dream" and it was one of the best trips I'd ever taken: all beignets and shellfish and alligator tours lead by toothless swamp men with half-fingers, courtesy of the aforesaid reptiles, men apparently ignorant of the lessons of the grown-up man-boys Peter Pan and Happy Gillmore. By which I mean the lessons of Captain Hook and Chubbs. By which I mean: dude was chewed up. I'm really curious to see how the city is now. The band visited back a year or two ago, in the fairly recent aftermath of that destructive hurricane (our hotel still had the entire bottom floor closed due to mildew from flooding) and, as has been reported many times (in many waaaaaays) the city was uncharacteristically somber; slower. Quieter. It's a beautiful, unique, singular city---in fact, the only city which smells so much of rum and upchucked rum that you could call beautiful. No offense Isla Vista and Chico: y'all are ugly. I'm optimistic; I've heard I have every right to be.

Speaking of optimism, I had little of it heading into Orlando. If I associate a city with a mouse and a duck with no pants, a creative yet horrible despot, and general humid mugginess, I tend to approach with caution. But you know what? Shut my mouth. Orlando was great. The club was a little leaky and there were no drink tickets (a veritable sin of omission), but the crowd was great, and, well, sometimes places just surprise you. Orlando was one of those. Hats off to that.

But man, oh man, does it rain in Florida. They've got these things they call "white outs," where the rain comes with such force that you can literally not see through it. And since it's humid as all get out and up in the high 80s, getting across the parking lot to your car is like taking a shower with your shoes on then stepping into a sauna. In other words: unpleasant.

Alright. The Gunslinger book I'm reading is demanding my attention. Be still, my pet. I'm coming.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

In which Birdmonster recalls great cinema of the motel room, meets its tourmates, and edges closer to the brilliant, ineffable beauty that is Rocky

- We've seen some bad movies on tour. Anacondas 2: Search for the Blood Orchid sticks out in my mind as a particularly egregious offender, though Crackerjack 3 sucked in a uniquely derivative way. I think I watched You, Me, and Dupree, in a theatre no less, but I've bowel movements that were more memorable. David and I share the distinction, I think, of being the only two people alive who watched both Cheerleader Ninjas and Killer Tongue on the same day. My parents: so proud.

Point is: we seek out bad movies and they, in turn, seek us out. If you've had occasion to turn on the television at two thirty a.m., you know what I'm talking about. There are no Citizen Kanes in the small hours of the morning, no Platoons or Dog Day Afternoons.There is, however, Ice Cube on a motorcycle. Or Mark Madsen squinting at something. Or Cuba Gooding Jr. co-starring opposite Skeet Ulrich. And somewhere, an angel is crying.

My favorite bad movie I've seen this tour doesn't quite hold a candle to Chill Factor, the aforementioned apex of the Skeet Ulrich experience, but it sucked enjoyably. It was called 300. It's original title, I believe, was Naked Men Stabbing Each Other In Slo-Mo, but Warner Brothers thought that was too long.

If you haven't seen 300, don't. But if it finds you, as it found us, you should definitely watch it. From this movie I learned there are three modes of conversation: screaming, yelling, and hollering. I learned that McNulty from "The Wire" should fire his agent. I also learned that killing hella fools is a hilarious good time. These are the important lessons of our times.

- First things second: We're not playing Atlanta tonight. We did not cancel this. It, like 300, simply happened to us. Sorry to all you Georgians who were planning on coming. And that includes the Georgians fighting the Russians half a world away. Though, if history has taught me anything, it's that you never go to war against the Russians. Unless you're Rocky.

- Speaking of Rocky, we played in Philadelphia a few nights back, which, as you should know, is the land of Rocky. We even had sausages one morning that came from the butcher Rocky visits in the first movie. Or so we were told. I didn't press the issue because I'd rather not quite know for sure. A world in which I eat the food of Rocky is a world I want to be a part of. And this is where you remind me that Rocky's not real. And then I remind you he has a statue in Philly and you don't. Neener, neener.

- That Philly show, beyond bringing us closer to the radiant sun of Rocky Balboa, introduced us to our tourmates for the rest of October: the Rumble Strips. I've seen them three times now, there, in D.C., and last evening in North Carolina and, well, they ooze kick assitude. It's hard to describe the music---bands like "Dexy's Midnight Runners" and "The Band" are often referenced---but the end result is something unique, fun, and incredibly catchy. Incredibly nice guys too. Oh, and there's a trumpet. And a really shoddy acoustic guitar. These things please me.

- I saw a road killed rat in the back of the club in D.C. and it made me happy and a little homesick, which is to say, I've reached a point in my life where rat splatter fills me with joy. I'm not sure what to think about this.

- Beyond the euphoria-inducing collection of rodent carcasses, D.C. was phenomenal. And you know what? It always is. We've played there on Labor Days, Memorial Days, Sundays, and all the other manner of non-concert-going days and each time we've had a boisterous, enthusiastic, lovable crowd. It's been my personal favorite so far. Thanks to everyone in (McCain time) "Warshington" who came out, sang, danced, and sent us shots to play songs we hadn't played in over half a year. I've already circled D.C. on our next tour, which of course exists only in my mind. We're opening for Daft Punk and Jethro Tull.

- Our next stop is Orlando, a town that, like Anaheim, is awash in Goofy, Snow White, Bambi, and all the other animated scamps created by that lovable Nazi-sympathizer animator, Walt Disney. I'm curious to see what kind of hotel we find there. Part of me thinks it will have race-car beds. I don't know why. We hope to see you there, but only, I realize, after you've ridden the Matterhorn a few dozen times. We wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

In which Birdmonster rolls through Virginia, plays with precocious teenagers, and ponders the myth and majesty of Bob Barker

When I was in college and even poorer than I am now, I went with a large group of people to "The Price Is Right," hoping to secure a car, a vacation, or at least a poorly made gazebo. Before the show, everybody stands in one of those snaking lines like they have at Disneyland, waiting for their chance to interview with the dour gentlemen who choose the contestants for that day's show. Being that I was nineteen going on thirteen, and being that my enthusiasm level was somewhat below the caffeinated cocker-spaniel level required for Price Is Right contestants, I was passed over. Of course, you don't know this beforehand, so you spend the entire filming in a state of rabid anxiousness while old midwesterners with Bob Barker on their shirt get chosen, and, subsequently groped by the man silkscreened to their bellies. It's very post-modern.

There are two great things about Price Is Right. At least, there were. First off, there was Bob. Retired now after fifteen decades of hosting, Bob Barker was the consummate emcee. He told lame but enjoyable jokes during the commercial breaks, never missed a beat, and admonished everyone to have their dog's balls removed. He was also a decidedly dirty old man. I recall one occasion, where, during a commercial break, Bob was chatting up a particular group of ladies with customized shirts saying things like "Pick Me, Bob!" or "We Love You Bob!" These were not what you'd call attractive womens, especially if you were Bob Barker, an octogenarian who spends most of his days surrounded by ninety-pound Barbies. This did not stop Bob. He walked over to them during the break, and, into that weird, skinny, candy-apple microphone he used to have, said "Nice shirt, honey."

"Thank you Bob! THANK YOU! WE LOVE YOU!" she responded.

"Why don't you" (and here he laughed in a disturbingly Cheney-ian way), "take it off and throw it over here."

And he continued flirting with her all show. And not just her. Pretty much every woman in a ten row radius of the stage. It was like going to Hooters with your Grandpa and watching him pinch asses and "drop" chicken wings.

The second great thing about the Price Is Right is screaming. On the more staid gameshows like, say, Jeopardy or the one with no whammies, you aren't allowed to yell the answers at the contestants. Not on Price Is Right. No, no. Here, you can shout anything you want: "Seven Hundred Fifty!" "Forty five Rupees!" "Man's Search For Meaning!" It helps if you've had some Brandy milk punch for breakfast.

I mention this because at the beginning of every tour, we play Price Is Right with our overall mileage. Guesses are made, scratch-off lotto tickets are bet, prognostications are recorded. This time around, the estimates range from eleven thousand miles to seventeen thousand, one hundred and eleven, the last being mine. In the past few days, however, we've all reconsidered. I think my guess, ludicrously high on its face, is now dangerously low. We've gone 3,300 miles already. We've been gone for a week. Barely. And, in total, we're doing west coast to east coast to west coast to east coast back home to the west. Which is to say, if we were on Price Is Right, I'd probably win, though, as they tell you when you're sitting down: "Men are discouraged from hugging Bob Barker." I wonder if Drew Carey is as squeamish a homophobe.

Since we spoke last, we've enjoyed Virginia, both in Charlottesville and Fredericksburg. We were pre-empted in Charlottesville by the Sarah Palin Show, which we missed, but that's okay: I'm dumb enough already. I don't need the extra help. Charlottesville is a gorgeous old city, all bricks and trees and pedestrians, and our showmates, Bird Lips, were both tall and excellent in equal measure. They're a folk duo (keys and twelve-string) that sounds nothing like you're assuming. Our best to them.

And then we went to Fredericksburg, VA. Fredericksburg is just one of those places, which is to say, a place we happened upon, fell in love with, and hope to come back to every time we're on the East Coast. This was our second time there and we played in a 222 year old bookstore, one which has a truly inconvenient post in the middle of the "stage" but one which sounds surprisingly great. It's got a strange, cozy, D.I.Y. aura to it and the kids that come are really, really fun people to have at a show. They sing along, they clap along, they hoot constantly. And you know what? We've played with three bands from Fredericksburg and they've all been amazing. When I was 16, I was playing horrible metal cheese in my family room. These kids are writing catchy pop songs and playing the shit out of them. So, if you're in the area and you ever see "Rocky's Revival," "Carlos I'm Pregnant", or "Tereu Tereu" at a show, do yourself a favor: go see them. They will blow your mind.

Tonight: Philly. We meet the Rumble Strips. I will make an ass of myself. I look forward to it all.