Friday, May 09, 2008

USA Part Two: I Say Oh My and a Boo Hoo...

After Arkansas was the mighty fine trek to Dallas. Ko let me tap my headphones into her iPod and I played DJ for a good chunk of the trip. She'd played a bunch of the new Gnarls Barkley record, but not enough for me to form an opinion. By the time we'd rolled up to the House of Blues I had us rocking out to the Misfits "Bullet."

In bad taste? Hardly.

I snuck off after soundcheck and waltzed over to Dealey Plaza. Trying to think of individual spots where the course of American history changed and that little white "X" in the road has to be tops in regards the actual size versus impact.

I easily would lump Fort Sumter and the World Trade Center site as monumental places in US history. But their literal size also seems too huge and ultimately detracts from the effect of being in its presence.

There were a few guys around …one trying to sell a newsprint pamphlet of photos and news reports, another with a full-blown desktop computer running on a generator hawking CD-ROM's, surely with "the truth" as his main intention.

I just sort of stared around. Later I'd read about a man who, about five years ago, killed himself on that very "X" that marks the spot where JFK was first struck by the assassin's bullet.

And I'll come out right here and say it…I think Oswald acted alone. I think I can solely base my opinion on the downright badass Case Closed account written by all-around badass Gerald Posner. You can huff all you want about LBJ and Castro and the CIA and Woody Harrelson's dad, but in the end, there's just TOO much evidence that points solely in the direction of little Lee Harvey.

Show in Dallas would be the first where I felt absolutely 100% recovered from my ills. There was a decent crowd and I think we sufficiently rocked them.

From Dallas to Austin with a brief stop in Waco at the Style Station. Housed in what was originally a gas station back in the 1920's, it's a wild collection of premium vintage clothes…swank snap-button cowboy shirts, buttery soft Seventies t-shirts, shitloads of Levis in all the right fades…not to mention all kinds of other cool old crap crammed into every last available crevice.

I found some cool shit and even took to trying it on, but alas my fat ass had to take a pass. I was even more bummed about it when the owner lady (who used to live in Detroit) said that musicians get an immediate 20% off. Damn. I ended up with a black print on yellow shirt for what appears to be a go-kart association from the 1970's. I was chuffed.

Upon arrival at Emo's we were greeted by Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio. Troy's bass amp had taken a shit in Little Rock and Mick had been in touch with Dave since then. As a side-effect of being one of the coolest fucking dudes around, Dave went out and bought a brand new Berringer bass amp and just handed it over to us. His instructions were to use it for the rest of the tour and when we're done with it to donate it to a school music program somewhere in Detroit.

Someone just give the guy a medal already, ok?

The Hold Steady would be playing Emo's outdoor space and I think we out-rocked them. I mean, come on, it's the Hold Steady, how many bad bar rock songs to you have to write before Pitchfork stops swallowing your nutsack? Our show was sold out and we had posters made by Rob Jones. We win.

Next day in Austin was spent cruising the hip shops. I got the JVC Force "Strong Island" 12" for $15 and we all contemplated really hard on whether or not the next Dirtbombs "look" would be Odd Fellows outfits from the 1890's with insane flame and eyeball insignias embroidered all over the wildly colored tunics. We opted not to plunk down the couple hundred bucks a piece they were asking at the antique mall, but I'm still certain they'd make for a badass photo shoot.

Then off to Waterloo where I grabbed a bunch of different things only to put it all back and instead buy Chuck Berry's complete Chess sessions from the 1950's. It's not that I'm even that big of a Chuck Berry fan (though I gotta admit the original title for the 4CD box, The Mann Act Was Bullshit is brilliant) but I'm ultimately a sucker for collections to which there's nothing else. Like the first three years of Sun Records boxset, the Bo Diddley double-disc of his first three years on Checker, the Complete Motown Singles series…the idea of having everything, excites me on historical, record collecting, archival contexts not to mention that the ability to clearly view how an artist/label has evolved from release to release is like a soggy dream come true for me.

I then walked across the street to whole foods where I got an Odwalla, some pork and rice mixed together, a bread roll and a chocolate bar with pieces of bacon in it all for a total of $18.

Yes, a chocolate bar with pieces of bacon in it. Someone read my mind. And let me tell you all, this concoction is godhead. It is easily worth the $6 I paid for it. Do yourself a favor and go and buy the greatest delicacy known to man…Mo's Bacon Bar from Vosges Haut Chocolat.

Off to Houston. Rudyard's always initially seems like it's going to be a bummer. We forewent a soundcheck and instead went to hang out at some bookstores. I passed on a $30 book about No Wave that I'm still thinking about. Bookstores = great time killer.

We played well, the crowd was into it but visible signs of their reactions were few and far between. It's frustrating when you KNOW the crowd is into it but they show none of the outward signs…makes it that much harder for you to completely pour yourself into the performance. That being said, I still seem to remember the show ending with fans being brought onto the stage to dance. So I could just be full of shit.

On to Louisiana, bringing to mind brilliant songs by the Walkmen. Seems we never get enough time to spend in New Orleans. Once we'd loaded in I scooted around the corner to check out Rev. Zombie's/Marie Laveaux's Voodoo Shop. I didn't have time to take the haunted New Orleans tour, so I perused around the shop, bought some postcards and a good luck mojo bag and made back to the club.

One-Eyed Jack's is a cool club. I dig it. Nice size and layout and just feels all-around cozy. After check I went around walking some more. Usually I'd go and spend all my time and most of my money at the Tower Records down the block, but with that closed I needed to expand my exploratory options. So I swallowed my pride and went to Urban Outfitters, "Ruining Your Thrift Store Finds since 1992."

I finally plunked down the requisite amount of cash for a copy of Banksy's Wall and Piece and I'm hard-pressed to think of another modern artist who seems to so ably capture the aw-fuckit, youthful joie-de-vivre as the anonymous graffiti chav with a penchant for clever and poignant observations paired with detailed stencil work.

But I was also surprised to see brand-new on-the-rack Levi's Sta-Prest pants. Available in black and brown (and I think only straight-leg as opposed to the more-common/desirable 517 boot cut), they may very well have not even been labeled Sta-Prest as such. But as a certifiable Levi's connoisseur, it was clear the material was that same polyester that I've come to depend on for my fancy-dress occasions. I thought they were no longer in production and a quick call to my sister who works at the Levi's Store on Michigan Ave in Chicago told me that they certainly weren't carried by that location. I know for a period they were being billed as "Tex Twill" and targeted to the cowboy market that Wrangler's pants of the same fabric, cut and colors were intended for.

But for $50 and with a curious inner waistband placement of a silk-screened Levi's logo I was not biting. Had they been available in blue, that'd be an entirely different story. There are barely any pants that I wear that are not Levi's. My hoard of jeans borders on psychologically problematic and by the time I realized that Sta-Prest are pretty much just jeans of a different material, I was easily won over. Also, it's not too often you deal with a company that has literally (really and truly literally) invented a piece of clothing. And Levi's invented the blue jean. To quote the seminal 1980's film about teenage female sorcery, "Top That."

Eric Oblivian's band the True Sons of Thunder opened and they were a welcome first of three. Mr Quintron and Miss Pussycat arrived quite early and I totally blanched as I hadn't even thought to put them on the list as I was certain they were on the road. But they got in nonetheless and I was bummed when I didn't get a chance to talk with them. I wanted to get the scoop on the recent batch of limited Drum Buddies he'd offered up for sale. Hell, I kinda wanted to buy one.

I napped a bit on the band balcony during the Stoltz set. His songs are soft and comforting and remind me of home, they put me at ease and I welcome their ability to but me aslumber.
We rocked well. The sizeable crowd was appreciative. The clear highlight though was a seven-minute band exercise in restraint. To end our main set, we stuck into a groove that became so much bigger than the sum of all our parts, beyond any of our control. The crowd reactions were fucking classic though.

Mike Hurtt said he had friends who wanted to leave during the jam. He wisely said "No, that's what they want you to do. They're not gonna end with this. They will reward you if you stick it out." Hurtt himself could not stand our arty experiment, but he was totally fucking right. As we retook the stage, some girl yelled indignant with pointed finger "THAT WAS NOT COOL!" while another audience member put it more bluntly with "YOU OWE ME!"

So we proffered up "Need You Tonight" and seemingly made it worth their while. It's refreshing to be able to do something that feels totally fresh and satisfying as an artist and yet still challenge (and possibly off-put) the audience. And to bring it all back with some INXS, the musical equivalent of a straight-outta-the-oven chocolate chip cookie, well, it's the best of both worlds, isn't it?

Spent a good chunk of my post-gig time chatting with Peg O'Neill of the Gories. This lady embodies a form of badass that is all but nonexistent outside of her DNA. I can sit there and listen to her talk endlessly. I know I'd creeped her out years ago with my Gories-related obsessiveness, but she's thankfully looked past that and now any time I get to see her is a pure treat. New Orleans was a good day.


Anonymous said...

excellent, full marks

Leyland "Lee" DeVito said...

I really like the new Gnarls Barkley. There's no "Crazy" on there, but I think I like it better. It's got this Sixties sound throughout, and I like how the songs are simultaneously so danceable yet so sad. "Going On" is my favorite track.

Elwood D. Pennypacker said...

The soaring high of reading that the Dirtbombs are in cahoots of at least some sort with TV on the Radio was quickly followed by the depressing crash low of your thoughts about the Hold Steady. In a matter of a few consecutive sentences, dream tickets of matter only to me were born and lost.

Anonymous said...

i was won over by your thoughts on the hold steady, but what really cinches my love of this blog is the quoting of Teen Witch.

good work.


e-diddy said...

what a coincedence that I just opened a music school in my basement and are currently and in the future accepting donations of all kinds to enhance the musically impoverished children in the southern Metro Shores area of Michigan.