After New Orleans was a daylong day-off drive to Asheville. Sunday brunch was at Ruby Tuesday's and we feasted like kings. I indulged in the bottomless blackberry lemonade and engorged on the ribs and steak twofer. For some reason Troy didn't want Ruby Tuesday's, so he walked over to Waffle House and ate there by himself.
The drive was punctuated by short stolen bursts of sleep. Without a stereo in the van I've been pissed that I haven't brought any solid reading material, instead making do with issues of Vanity Fair and Radar and, if in a real pinch, the trashy bullshit celeb gossip rags that seem to multiply like Gremlins in our van.
Day in Asheville was spent ambling around those hippie streets. Breakfast with Mick and Pat at a nice little café where we see a guy wearing a white cloth jacket with the beginnings of a patch avalanche. As my chest pocket is filled with Cass Records logo patches for just such an occasion, I say "My man!" across the room (and let it be known, I have never used the phrase "My man!" before in my life and I have accepted the fact that I now sound like a floor salesperson at Guitar Center), say that he looks like the kind of guy who likes patches and then slap one of those 3" blue suckers in his hand. He seemed appreciative. I was glad that I had an interesting idea and instead of letting a weird nervousness block that just going up to the person, being cordial and realizing everything can work out just fine.
There were a couple of record stores I didn't buy anything at. Was tempted by a Mt. Tai 7" somewhere and can't believe that even with its Poopy Time connections that I decided not to buy it. Stupid.
There was a shitload of vintage clothing stores that were all worth my time. At Hip Replacement I bought two pair of Levi's 517's and an exemplary specimen of navy blue Sta-Prest pants as well. Throw in two pair of psychedelic tights for Malissa and I'm out of there $120 poorer. But those jeans will last me nice and long and you'd be hard-pressed to buy a lesser-quality, not-as-cool pair of NEW Levi's for $32 a pair.
Years ago I simplified my life and decided to only wear Levi's jeans. It was a process of weeding out one pair of Lee and two Old Navy that are now used for the rare painting excursion. I am in love with the fact that Levi's invented blue jeans. I love the history of the company, the evolution of their style and the perfection achieved with the 60's and 70's 517's (boot-cut) and 646's (bell-bottoms).
So when we tour, I stuff my Tumi with as many pairs of those denim demons as will feasibly fit. I seem to remember a looooong European tour a few years back where I brought at least 16 pairs of jeans with me. Yes…I own an insane amount of jeans. I'm of the mindset of "Let's not do laundry" on tour and the best way to achieve that is BULK! BULK! BULK! Naturally my t-shirt stockpile is impressive as are my underwear and sock reserves. I am nothing if not thorough and exact in my distaste of doing laundry on tour.
What I've also achieved by only wearing Levi's is a sense of regularity. I know that my cell phone will always be in my front left pocket. There's never the urgent sense of searching where the hell that "Conquest" ringtone is coming from. Plus, the initial Levi's jeans exclusivity have crossed over to corduroys and Sta-Prest in that there's nary an occasion (with the sometime exception of a wedding/funeral where I can't fake it with Sta-Prest) I will not have a Levi's tab on my right asscheek. I know I will always have a minimum of four pockets, if I'm lucky to get the fifth there'll certainly be a drum key stuffed in there.
I guess what I'm saying is that I love Levi's (shit, we haven't even gotten into the perfection of the six-pocket jean jacket design) and if you happen to stumble upon any 36x32's or (really need this one here) a size 42 black Sta-Prest suit coat, well, I want 'em.
The club in Asheville, the Orange Peel, was laughably too big. But seeing as they offered the big bucks to bring us there we weren't going to complain. Greg Cartwright showed up with his wife and daughter for soundcheck completing our Oblivians sightings trifecta for the tour (with the rare Quintron bonus!) and after knocking around a bit we cracked next door for some banging burritos.
Mostly slept backstage before the show. Saw a Muldoons tattoo that was pretty unexpected. We performed perfunctory.
Next day we drove to Birmingham. Now I'd heard lots about how cool the Bottle Tree is and every bone in my body wanted to prove it wrong. But the cynic inside is silenced. The Bottletree is easily the best rock club in the nation and (quite possibly) the world.
With seasoned skinsman Brian Teasley (Man…or Astroman?, Polyphonic Spree, Vue) as the driving force behind the venue ably aided by a veritable platoon of proud employees from soundman down to cook, the place is, considering its location in the lifeless wasteland of Alabama, a true-to-life oasis.
Backstage comfort is second to none. A plethora of time-killers are just screaming for you to mess with them…current magazines you'd actually want to read (and Spin too), interesting books (The History of Porn), massage chairs, bowls of candy, a tub filled with all kinds of great sports equipment (Nerf balls galore) and even an Airstream trailer with beds a'beckoning and a TV/DVD set-up with a sweet selection of rock-centric programming (I suggest WORLD'S BEST DRUM SOLOS VOL. 2).
While all the above-mentioned would certainly be enough to win my hardened rock and roll heart, I must specifically mention how fucking cool and courteous the staff at the Bottletree is. I felt a strong sense of mutual respect…they were there to make the show go as smoothly as possible and I was there to put on the best possible show I could. So with oh-so-succulent food (Jerk Grilled Pork Tenderloin) and a staffer who's only job it seemed was to make sure everything was cool for us, I am hard-pressed to come up with anything that even remotely resembles a complaint about the Bottle Tree.
And as it should work, we played a pretty damn solid show. I was actually somewhat nervous performing with Teasley in the room. As much as he's played, I'd figured he was jaded beyond belief and certainly his scribblings in Chunklet would make you think so. But when he came up to me after the show and said he'd never seen someone do a headstand on a bass drum before, it genuinely made my day.
Coming from a dude who's played thousands of shows the world over, it got me to thinking that if HE hadn't seen anyone else do it, maybe no one else HAS done it. This would, in most other circumstances, but no issue at all as I do things all the time I assume no one else has before (eg, ordering a cheeseburger, cheese curds, mini-corndogs at A&W today) but can't imagine that anyone really cares.
But as a music writer and one with a tendency to look for ultimates and firsts, I can't stress how hard it actually is to do something completely original behind a drum set. People just been playing the things for far too long…you can't set 'em on fire, throw 'em up against the wall, play 'em upside down or underwater without being reminded of those who did it first and (most often) better.
So it is here, my faithful readers, that I look to you to help me find any evidence of ANYONE else ever doing a headstand on a bass drum. I know the exact date I performed my first one (and if you do some digging, you can find it buried around here) and we will consider that the starting point until anyone proves otherwise.
But seriously, the Bottle Tree is unparalleled. A club run by a guy who's done his time touring is a club done right. While I never imagined I'd ever have a reason to say it, I truly cannot wait until the next time we get to Birmingham, and more importantly, the next time we get to play the Bottle Tree.