Saturday, June 07, 2008

USA Part Six: We're Actually in Canada Now...

Show day with time to kill in New York is a nice luxury. I again meet with Kugelberg and we finalize the details on a blockbuster record trade the likes of which make me giddy. We dine at a pretty fantastic ramen place, the name of which escapes me. He also took me to Academy Records, the vinyl store, in Manhattan. He made a few sound suggestions (a Folkways LP with early Moondog recordings , another Folkways LP with music made by wild animals) and when he asked what would be good records to play for a grade school classroom, all I could muster was the first White Stripes album. And I still stick by that.

After check at Bowery I tramped up the street to Rockit Scientist, my favorite record store in NYC. John and Ramsey behind the counter absolutely revel in playing shit for you and don't mind taking their time for frank discussion about anything from baseball to bossa nova. I don't remember what I bought, but I always buy something as, after seven years of loyal help, they feel like family to me.

From there, a nice and relaxing meal was had around the corner at Freeman's. A slight step-up from my usual gourmandizing Subway fares, "they" call restaurants of this nature "New American" and despite my not really believing that, the taxidermy on the walls and the staff were all warm and welcoming.

Started with the Devil's on Horseback (bleu-cheese stuffed prunes wrapped in bacon), a dish I'd been hearing raved about from quite some time. I was impressed…just not bowled over. Paired with the artichoke dip and it was a substantial appetizer for my barbeque spare ribs served over a bed of cheese grits.

While I usually frown upon pre-show food consumption, this entire experience opened my mind to what could be accomplished in the time before taking the stage. The pace of it was what really won me over…for a bustling joint on a Friday night that, for the most part, doesn't take reservations (and immediately after the '04 elections, responded to the Bush twins query of "How long for a table?" with the delicious "About 4 years") I felt amazingly calm and at ease, even with a set time to make.

There was dessert too…rich and sugary of some sort. As a whole it was a tad expensive yes, but it made my day as meals so rarely do. And a particularly good meal on tour is a commodity no price can be affixed to…instead you offer yourself to the god of gourmet and sacrifice your wallet in ecstasy.

First of three band was Care Bears on Fire and pending a show with Smoosh, we may be the adult band that's played with the most "kid" bands now. They were cute and fun and had parents that seemed like they were possibly a tad overbearing. But hey, maybe that's what you need to be when you're bringing your kids to hang out in bars while in junior high.

Our set was nothing spectacular. We showed up, we played our songs as we've come to play them and the response was appropriate. Nothing spectacular and far from a let-down, it was more just the accomplishment of our first show on the island of Manhattan in almost two years coming off without a hitch. The room was sold out and that was enough for me.

Pulling into Boston and as we drive past Cheapo Records I see Peter Wolf (J. Geils Band) exiting. I immediately called my mom, as she's the biggest J. Geils fan I know and played 20 questions with her about who I'd seen. For some reason she couldn't get off an Aerosmith tangent and I think she only figured it out after I gave some god-awful clue like "the band rhymes with 'lay liles.'" Even when she did get it, she seemed fairly unimpressed and I told her that's the last time I spot band members from semi-memorable bands of yesteryear for her.

But then she got on to talking about Electrifyin' Mojo made "Flamethrower" a hit in Detroit even though it was a single…and maybe something about how some of his listeners had thought J. Geils was a black band. I live for stories about Mojo…like Mike Banks in Underground Resistance cover story of THE WIRE recently saying something along the lines of

"He saved a lot of lives back in '82…gang violence was at its worst that year and he'd get on the air and say 'hey, let's be cool out there' and then drop 'Rock Lobster' and you can't be killing people while you're doing the rock lobster"

I'm also hoping big-time someone reading here can throw me a line on how to see the Electrifyin' Mojo documentary. Any help? Anyone?

Our good deed of the night was sneaking an underage girl in the back door and then hiding her in the band dressing room for the rest of the night until we played. I think at some point she even gave Ko a haircut, so we at least put her to work.

Show was solid (nice VU mallet beat throughout "Surrounded), best moment was our encore of "Kung Fu" called as an audible. During the freaky part in the middle I climbed atop Pat's bass drum and began banging on his rack tom. This would be the first time I made such a move and needless to say I dug on it hardcore and would jump at the chance whenever the opportunity arose in the future.

From there we welcomed the wicked border crossing for our frosty northern neighbors, Canada. When we arrived Man Man was sitting there waiting for their paperwork rigamarole "let's see how long we can make these weirdos sit here before one of them freaks out and then conduct body cavity searches on the whole lot" stunt. Dorien knew their tour manager, so they engaged in small talk, but the bands themselves shared nary a word.

Not long after they were on their way the Kelley Stoltz band arrived at the same crossing. Even though they showed up AFTER we did, they got out of there BEFORE us, most likely due to the fact they were carrying no merchandise with them and had no tariff/duties/customs bullshit fees to pay (whereas we did…all $87 of it).

So after they leave ANOTHER FUCKING BAND walks in the passport control building. Was this some kind of joke? It was killing me not knowing who they were and the fact that they looked hip was only exacerbating my mindset even more. I had to approach.

I'm pissed I didn't say the line I'd been toying with (suggested by Troy?) which was "Don't I know you from Pitchfork?" and instead probably just said something terribly monosyllabic like "What band you?" When they said they were Yeasayer, I was even more pissed…if only because they're totally always on Pitchfork. I told them what my initial intro line was going to be and they all agreed it would've been much, much funnier. Next time…

Cabaret Music Hall in Montreal is a nice club to play. Our set times got pushed back because the Habs had a playoff game and I'd like to blame the less-than-stellar turnout on the fact that those pansies lost.

It seems at this point in touring that our encores are really what keep everything fun and flowing. It's not that I don't dig the main set, but I've come to start thinking that the set is for the fans and the encore has become for the band. It's where we can explore ourselves out, try some different things, spread our metaphorical wings…our encore is where we can just BE.

So on this night many things would happen and I'd be a mystic if I could both remember them all and their order, so please forgive my usual chronological accuracy at this moment and just enjoy.

Before playing any songs, I said "Habitants, quel dommage" in response to the Canadiens losing earlier in the evening.

We played the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" with most (if not all) of the Kelley Stoltz band joining us in some form or another.

I carried my snare drum, kick drum, ride cymbal and drum throne off the stage down into the crowd and began playing while completely surrounded by the fans. I believe the song was "Granny's Little Chicken"

I had a microphone and partook in some playful banter with the crowd. I can remember being particularly fixated on the Arcade Fire, busting out with "My grandpa died too…get over it." I may also have dropped "All the ugly people be quiet" into the mix

I abdicated my drums (only to have the seat taken up by a revolving door of "I can do that's" kicking around) and climbed a speaker stack up to the balcony. I then began throwing wooden chairs off the balcony onto the stage. About four in total. One snapped in half. The promoter joked about charging us for it later, but he seemed so into it he said he couldn't charge us after such a great performance. He said the gig was so good it'd be written up in the weeklies. I don't think it was.

My drums ended a mess…in the process of tossing them in the air, (probably) putting them on my head, taking them into the crowd, headstanding on them and whatever else I managed to lose my last remaining mallet from my Euro tour with Stoltz in '06. That felt bittersweet, as a lone mallet was a small sacrifice for what was, in my mind, easily the best show of the tour.


Karissa said...

nice read. ko's haircut was a great story for those stuck at home that night. thanks again for being so nice to me.


Anonymous said...

i heart your mom

chela said...

Are you talking about High Tech Soul: The Creation of Techno Music?
You can buy it a Meijer, of course.


chnkltgy said...

Ben, I think I've inadvertently seen Peter Wolf every time I go to Boston. Almost always in Cambridge and almost always in a record store. Fucking odd.

Anonymous said...

The Arcade Fire's Neon Bible is actually not all that thematically different from We Have You Surrounded. "Ever Lovin' Man" is "My Body Is a Cage", "Wreck My Flow" is "Windowsill", "I Hear The Sirens" is "Keep the Car Running", "Leopardman at C & A" is "No Cars Go", "La Fin du Monde" is "Black Mirror... kind of weird.

Anonymous said...

You have got to see this Ben:

Jason Stoolreamer is fucked! HAHAHA

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Jason, here he is spreading more of his lies:

Anonymous said...

The Real Detroit one is terribly amusing. My favourite part being the revelation about his name.

Oh wow, are we seriously supposed to believe that someone in a band isn't using their real name? ho ho ho, they'll be saying Father Christmas doesn't exist next!

Anonymous said...

How do you get punched from behind and get a Black eye?