Friday, May 02, 2008

USA Part One: This Could Maybe Be Some Fun...

I'm running behind, but I'll catch up sooner or later. Check out Australia Pts. 9 and 5 for some recently added photos (bloody finger, fuzzy drums) and now dig on my words about the motherland.

I had the awesome luck of having to drive to every other Dirtbombs member's house to pick them up before our voyage down to Bloomington. The promoter wanted us there at 4pm to load in. We left Detroit at 2pm and it's at best a five-hour drive.

The great part was that the club wasn't providing a soundman so had we arrived at the suggested time, we would've just been a bunch of aggravated, jet-lagged bombs.

In stead, we showed up after doors had opened and were all the better for it. Never mind that I was pulled over for not having my headlights on. It was totally one of those military haircut hard-ass dudes and I was just waiting for how bad he was gonna screw me.

I honestly explained to him how the lights on the dash made it appear as if my headlights were on. Being that weird time where you kind of need your lights and kind of don't I couldn't really tell if my beams were on or not. He took my license and registration and I immediately prepared for an unjust fine.

Dude came back with a written warning. Fuck yeah. We rule.

Chilled at the club and caught up with Stoltz and company. Looked for the posters for the night with no luck. Bummer. Opening bands were Shake and the Coke Dares. They were standard opening bands.

Stoltz sounded great. The mix, the way his players interacted, starting the set with Link Wray's "Ace of Spades" was all so insanely flawless. It's frustrating because Kelley makes it look effortless while I know firsthand how hard he works for these results and the attention he pays to minute details.

Our set was solid. Seemed like there had to be a dozen people crawling around the stage taking photos. During "They Have Us Surrounded" I set my cracked ride cymbal on top of my floor tom and beat on it with my mallet for some crunchy aural pleasure. After a little while of that, I grabbed the cymbal with one hand and just blindly threw it behind me and over my head. I think it probably looked cool.

For the encore I put my floor tom on my head and Ko banged the head that I think gave me some nasty hearing damage. I grabbed the tom mic and screamed into it "There's more photographers here than at a fucking Olan Mills" with my alternate phrase being "There's more cameras here than at Ko's family reunions."

One of the photographers apparently asked Ko what the most exciting moment was during our set. She wisely told him that was for him to figure out. Then I think he asked if she could signal him when something "cool" was about to happen and she replied "Do you want me to click the shudder for you too?"

So after I tossed the tom off my head I sidled up to this photog and gingerly tried to tackle him while also trying to weasel his camera away from him and take photos with it. Luckily he realized it was all in good fun.

The bummer of the entire day (and soon to be the entire weekend) would be my diminishing physical health. Body aches, sore throat, runny nose, congestion, chest-piercing coughs…they would all make appearances over the Holy Weekend.

Saturday found my illness taking its attack position. I would lack an appetite the entire day. We were mostly making good time for our check/load in Nashville until we came to a particular roadside stop in Kentucky. You see, this particular stop, which included megalithic renditions of prehistoric reptiles, had an establishment touting its t-shirt pricing prowess. But even more exciting…they were selling switchblades.

Of the many idyllic hopes and dreams I had as a young tyke joining this sputtering rock and roll juggernaut, one that had yet to have been fully crushed by the mind-flattening ennui that comes with the territory was to find a properly shady roadside establishment which partook in the commerce of spring-loaded cutlery. I figured that in this ill-begotten country such a search would take all of, oh I don't know, a five-hour drive in any direction.

So year after year I hoped and year after year I was disappointed. I began to think that switchblades just didn't exist any more. I found one once at a Mexican flea market outside of Austin back in 2003, but it had a swastika on it and Pat convinced me otherwise. So despite my deathbed sickness, the day was relatively saved by my $15 purchase. I was kinda into it, but the wide-eyed 17-year-old drummer who still shows up from time-to-time is turning cartwheels.

We got to the club, decided it pointless to load-in and try to soundcheck before our instore so instead went to the hotel and checked in there. Best Western. Nice.

Grimey's for BeerThirty was good. There was an ample enough crowd and a good amount of kids came out…reminding us our show that eve was not all ages. With some record bins pushed aside we had sufficient (not ample) room to fit our shit. I used the house drums, Troy the house bass amp, Mick bought house records.

We played almost all of WE HAVE YOU SURROUNDED in order. We didn't do "La Fin Du Monde" and we kinda only really goofed on "They Have Us Surrounded" but otherwise, it sounded good, the crowd seemed happy, Pat climbed around on shelves and amps and drummed on anything he could get near and I fully utilized the 25% band discount to buy the Metalocalypse DVD, the new BYOP, Malkmus, Numero Group's Big Mack collection, Nick Swardson (my favorite comedian of the moment) as well as 7"s by Liars, the Kills and probably some others I'm forgetting.

Back at the Mercy Lounge and my illness would only escalate. I remember the Clutters and Stoltz playing, but I would remain backstage the entire eve trying to remain perfectly still in hopes that the sickness would think I had left and spare my soul. This, unfortunately, did not work. We played and the crowd was grateful but I found myself having to spit at least once a song, leaving an appetizing puddle of spittle that I'm sure some lucky soul chanced upon later in the eve.

As soon as we finished I returned backstage and continued my quest for eternal motionlessness. The fact that I failed to drink much of anything also led me to believe that our performance had now left me dehydrated.

Easter Sunday. The resurrection found me spending the entire day in bed in a Best Western in Nashville. The last time I spent an entire day supine was the summer between 4th and 5th grade and I'd had kidney surgery at Detroit Children's Hospital and watched a brawl breakout between the Tigers and Bosox after some schmuck decided to bean John Shelby and he rightfully charged the mound. That was almost 15 years ago. Wow.

I've often hoped for some regal excuse like an illness or injury (always thought a broken leg would work) as an excuse to take time and just get some shit DONE. In my dreams, it's usually the process of starting and completing the writing of a book. But with an entire day spent in bed with absolutely dipshit to do, I was left with the sneaking feeling that I only operate on the level of trying to do fifteen things simultaneously.

So if you give me nothing but time, I will complete absolutely nothing. Rather, give me a deadline that is too soon, pile on heaps of other tasks, get me to make the coffee, and I shall deliver. It's like my mom said, if you've got a job that needs to be done, always give it to the busiest person. They'll fit it in. The person not doing anything will just put it off and put it off and never get it done. I think that might be in the Bible somewhere.

Anyway, the entire day in bed sucked but was necessary for recuperation. The number of trips to the bathroom to hock up a lung's worth of phlegm and snot rocket the sink was upwards of thirty. I drank many fluids. I watched Wayne's World and reveled in it's early example of a "that's what she said" joke. Spaceballs was a nice treat too. All my immediate family called me individually to see how I was doing. I ate pizza for dinner. By the next morn I felt much better, about 85% operating level.

We quickly visited one of the few Guitar Center's in the world we've yet to experience, made a brief stop at Loretta Lynn's kitchen and seemed like we were in Memphis in no time. The Artisan hotel was something different last time we'd stayed there and now it just had bad reproductions of Mediterranean classics splashed all over the lobby. The rooms were fake nice…meaning some shit (like the bathroom sinks) really was swank, while other things like the carpet and the "paint" stains on Pat's bedspread were too glaring to overlook.

A quick trip to Shangri-La Records and I scored INXS' "Need You Tonight" in picture sleeve for $2. Played some pinball and killed lots of time as Memphis would prove a big bust. The Black Lips and Quintron had played on Friday, Saturday was Shangri-La's 20th anniversary party, Sunday was Easter and Monday was the night the Dirtbombs played for no more than 25 paying customers at the Hi-Tone Café.

I was happy though that Jack Yarber and Harlan T. Bobo showed up. To me, those two were worth more than 50 more audience members anyway. This night it would feel (to me anyway) that everything we played was hyper-sped up. I'm not gonna lie when I say I kinda liked it, especially on "Get It While You Can". I guess I'm just at that awkward phase where it seems like everything just sounds better when it's played breakneck. It's just a phase…I'm sure I'll grow out of it.

But it's not like Arkansas would prove to be any better. While the Best Western appeared to be brand new with its bright yellow exteriors, the Revolution Music Room would hold no more than 20 paying customers on this night. While the meal shared with the Stoltz band that day was time well spent (and time to catch up for me as both gangs had convened for Easter brunch while I was bed-bound), the club was laughably oversized for our limited draw and the highlight of the night for me was finding a stretch of Mann's Chinese Theater-inspired wet cement slabs that included the signature of a pre-Presidential Bill Clinton. I mean, it's kinda interesting to see that a man who would later become the leader of the Free World partook in some hokey bullshit like that at one time in his life, right?

Earlier that day the dudes in the band found ourselves in the hotel lobby staring at the television. We were held rapturous by the Univision weather report wherein a woman with breasts that bordered on geographic formations sputtered on, en Espanol, about the current meteorological conditions in the American South. Upon finishing her spiel, all four of us wisely and literally applauded her work. I left by saying "I've never found myself so curious about the barometric pressure."


Anonymous said...

Those Numero Group comps are top notch.

Anonymous said...

sometimes it's worth having the internet just to keep checking this blog.

an odd arangement. text, the basic form, the written word, nothing else. it's about the stories contained within, just like the hand-written bibles of many moons ago. but now, we just use technology that the average joe on the street could not even imagine was possible not so long ago.

Brilliant. sometimes the most basic thing you can do on the interet is the best. tales of far away lands and events. but ultimately good old fashioned writing and reading.

still very much enjoying the blog.

Dillon said...

i've been hoping that you would write about nashville. i wanted to read it from "ben's eyes".

sick or not, that was an awesome show at grimey's.

Murfreesboro, TN

jake said...

my ford truck does the same thing with the highbeams. although i wasnt pulled over by some uptight po-po, i did get the flashed highbeams of a mall security guard.

my name is jake.

jake said...

ugh, not highbeams. just headlights in general.

wheres my fucking brain today.