Sunday, May 25, 2008

USA Part Four: I Don't Want to Rhyme No More

We got into Atlanta early and spent time tramping around Little Five Points. I got the touring musician discount (20% off) at Criminal Records and took full advantage of said unpromoted promotion to purchase THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES VOL. 7 1967 at a relative steal.

From there I cleaned out some 7"s with potential from Wax'n'Fact's dollar bin. Two totally ghetto girls asked for the new Editors record and caught me off-guard. I hit up the vintage clothing stores nearby, but had no luck.

I was unpleased with my meal at the Earl before soundcheck. Met up with Henry Owings from Chunklet and went with him to some Mexican place. In front of us in line was some sort of radio promotions team. One of them handed Henry and I each a $5 bill and a pocket calendar for whatever station they were shilling. Hen thought it was a put-on…that the bill was fake and had some Bible quote on it. But no, shit was the real deal. When the girl handed us the dough, she said "(whatever radio station) would like to contribute $5 to your meal today" and that messed me up, because I'd already eaten and wasn't planning on ordering anything.

So do I give the money back because I'm not eating? Do I order something anyways and save it for later? Do I literally pass the buck to the dude behind me in line (to whom the promotions girl apologized for not having money for) because he's obviously hungry? I quickly figured a compromise and ordered a large lemonade. I made money on the deal in the end, which was nice.

I missed Thee Crucials, but can't remember if it was because I was asleep or something else. I can't remember Kelley either.

Our set was pretty damned fun. I did the mic in the mouth thing and started faux-rapping about Rob's House Records, the pre-eminent Atlanta 7" imprint. Then I just started screaming my balls out, pulling air from every last recess of my lungs to bellow and shriek into the microphone. I rolled around on the floor of the club until my hair ended up underneath someone's boot, leaving me physically unable to move anywhere else.

Amidst our Japanese-like end-of-the-show noise jam, I breathed a nugget of genius to the crowd that may just be the title of our next singles comp. I said "We can do this for a lot longer than you can deal with it." And although we didn't totally clear the room, we sent A LOT of motherfuckers for the door. There's something oddly satisfying about doing that.

I guess it seems like anything can pass for entertainment or music nowadays, so as to do something so strong or vile or annoying enough to make people who PAID for entry to leave the room of their own volition is a remarkable feat. I cherish it.

Not long after finishing a rewarding conversation with Trey of Rob's House Records (a label I can wholeheartedly endorse is worth picking up any of their releases indiscriminately), I picked up the blurry vision/seeing spots warning and prepared for a headache that would prove to be the second most painful one I'd experienced in my lifetime, just behind the migraine I got in second grade after the bowling league Xmas party where I was in so much pain I actually vomited.

There would be no vomit this time, just massive nausea that felt like it could lead to hurling at any minute. Also, we were driving two hours outside of town to a hotel that would shave that much time off the next day's drive, so I was left to try and remain motionless in our van in the wee hours of the morning trying to trick my brain into interpreting the pain as pleasure. Too bad that's some Dr. Spock shit that I ain't got a hold on yet.

We arrived at the hotel and Pat noticed the van was overheating. I went straight to our room, almost threw-up, then crashed to sleep big time, as the only thing that cures these tortuous headaches is some snoozing. The marquee pain had subsided by the time I awoke, but the rest of the day my head still hurt, as if it had been strained by the amount of pure pain exerted on it the previous night…yes, my headache was so strong that it had aftershocks.

So Pat woke up early to get the radiator hose fixed as a remedy to the overheating. A bunch of repair shop bullshit rigamarole went down and we were all left waiting hours (he at the shop, us still at the hotel) for a fix that should have taken next-to no time. Such is the touring life.

We got to Chapel Hill and soundchecked. Afterwards I walked in the rain to a used bookstore where I bought To Be Loved (Berry Gordy's autobiography), Berry, Motown and Me (Berry's ex-wife's autobio) and Hitmen the essential text exposing the music biz of yore for all their shady wheelings and dealings. Good scores.

Around the corner for burritos and art from vending machines. Good conversation about mail art and Ray Johnson at the club as my thoughts on how we played now seem lost to the ages.

Long-ass drive the next day to Baltimore the salty whore. All the drives tend to blend together at this point, but we got stuck in sick gridlock for two hours headed into downtown. From what I could see there was an Orioles game, a Duran Duran concert, some NCAA get-together (women's basketball finals?) and, of course, a Dirtbombs show.

We rolled into the Sonar right before doors opened, weary as hell and excited to stretch our legs. It was Ko's birthday and she was excited for it to be in the land of The Wire. Someone had their distro/traveling record store set-up so I bought some 7"s as a force of habit, some retail therapy to cope with the leftover dread of the bumper-humping traffic.

So for "Underdog" the guy's in Kelley's band put on sock puppets and stood in front of Ko and had the puppets join her for the "yeah yeah" response. She wasn't expecting it and it was nice and funny. Then our tour manager Dorien brought her a birthday cake onstage. I think Ko had a good birthday and that's a hard thing to pull off on tour.

The show was live. We hadn't played Baltimore since 2003 and even then it seemed whatever. But five years absence had uncovered some unknown dormant excitable kids who just danced their nuts off. It was so refreshing to see. Rolling Stone recently named Baltimore the best scene in the country and if the handful of freaks who showed up at our gig were any indication, I'd have to concur with Wenner's winners.

We drove after the show through to Washington DC to take full advantage of a Saturday afternoon spent there. I had hopes of going to the National Archives and checking out the veritable attic of the United States. Was bummed when I woke up in the morning to see that the Archives were closed for renovation until September and that a "best-of" their collection was available for viewing at the Air and Space museum.

The only thing I can hate more than viewing a tiny smidgen of the vast collection and resources of our country's National Archives would be seeing them alongside the fart of history in a building boring me with planes hanging from the ceiling like some Air Force-crazed 15-year-old boy with an endless supply of scale models and fishing line.

None of the other 82 museums in town floated my boat, so instead I just roamed around the area of the hotel. I called Svenonius and he directed me to some decent record stores, and as tempted as I was to flesh out my go-go collection, I failed to purchase anything.

I did, however, like the vibe of Dupont Circle, especially the people handing out the anti-Scientologist pamphleture with their faces covered for anonymity. There was the bustling 24-hour bookstore that I dug.

The show in DC was wild. I seem to remember DC being the town where I put TWO drums on my head…first my rack tom and then my floor tom over that, all while continuing to play. From there, more yelling and screaming into the mic and then moving my drums across the stage (while the band is sill playing, mind you) to set up my bass drum flush against Patrick's so that we were playing while facing each other. Grabbed Mick's guitar and started Thurston-ing out, shoving a drum stick under the strings and making all kinds of holy racket to rock out.

I ended with a headstand on Pat's bass drum and while trying to land with my legs straddling his head, took the dude out and gave both of us reason to walk off stage.

Shit was fun and it was best put by a fan who'd seen both the Baltimore and DC shows "Last night I saw one of the best rock and roll shows of my life and tonight I saw THE best rock and roll show of my life."

2 comments:

Dillon said...

ben- i just found out about the possibility of a new US tour. PLEASE COME TO NASHVILLE. i will take the chance this time, haha. i'm on summer break now so i can take more chances and stay up later. i'll buy more 45s if you come, promise.

-Dillon
Murfreesboro, TN

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