The Turner Ballroom in Milwaukee wanted us to arrive around 5pm. I don't think we showed up until 8:30 or so. Wasn't no thang for us, but apparently the club was paralyzed about what to do…there was even talk of completely canceling the show. We laughed when we were told this. We've shown up for gigs 45 minutes before closing and still played and STILL rocked the room.
The bigger problem, of course, was that we didn't even get to stop at Mars Cheese Castle.
The club was nice…catering, fancy upstairs dressing rooms, 'twas a shame we didn't really get to enjoy them for more than a few minutes. Caught the last few songs of the Terrible Twos and it was good seeing them on a big stage.
The set with Sartain was alright…I felt some kinks that still needed to be worked out, but I think the crowd was well-pleased with what they saw that night.
The Dirtbombs set was fun. We hadn't played together in over a week and there was a little rust to shake off, but overall the setlist is solid, everyone has it memorized and we can go from one song to another without having to speak to each other. This is the ultimate pinnacle of how tight we get on tour.
Having seen some non-flattering pix of my bass drum headstands, I'd vowed to myself to make that shit look a lot cooler. So during the encore of "I Can't Stop Thinking About It" I balanced myself on the drum and fully extended my legs with the sole intent of keeping them as straight as possible.
Somehow or another Pat timed the length of my headstand, an impressive 6.4 seconds, Easily a new personal best. Clearly the secret to a substantial stand time is keeping the legs straight. From there, I grabbed the floor tom mic, put the drum on my head and started singing about Green Bay stalwart Time Bomb Tom (representing in front of the stage) into Beck's "Timebomb" and then asking "Whatever happened to the Cactus Club?" as a sort of befuddlement as to why we were playing a theater more suited to fit over a thousand people in it rather than basement rec room-styled Cactus that broke so many bands in Beer City.
And so I relay to you a problem we've been encountering lately…do you play a smaller room, probably not as swank or with all the proper amenities, and totally pack 'em in and most likely for less money – OR – do you take the guaranteed bigger paycheck in the bigger room with catering and towels and a backstage and just cope with playing a room that's at 1/3 its capacity?
Frankly, I think proper showbiz etiquette dictates that you should always play a room slightly smaller than you can fill…just to keep things exciting. But as this is a touring operation highly susceptible to the forces of $7 a gallon gas, sometimes you just need to go for the sure thing.
I sang more at the front of the stage, kicked some cans of bear and then outright pounced upon David from the Mistreaters. I took him to the floor and we rolled around and after a spirited tussle I ended up on top with his arms pinned. An employee of the club, apparently unaware that I've spent the past 9 years of my life with the Mistreaters, was feverishly trying to pull me off the man, probably under the impression I had just blindly attacked a member of the audience and scared that it would somehow end up in a lawsuit against the club.
My little sister and her boyfriend drove up from Chicago for the show I had a blast hanging out with them backstage. It's crazy how much I miss her since she's moved to an area that actually has jobs for people in their twenties, but it makes the time that I do get to spend with her that much sweeter.
Next day in Madison. Time kicking around town proves fruitless at the record store and vintage clothing store, but the lesbian book store provides a goldmine of pins that will be discreetly placed on members of the touring party where they will sit for some time before being noticed. Pin sayings include:
"Stop staring at my tits" (and I actually may just keep that one for my own jacket)
"Not every sperm deserves a name"
"I got this way by kissing boys"
"I (heart) bisexuals"
This is how we have fun. Is it funny for me to wear the "tits" button or no?
Madison was into us. Good-sized crowd and when I went into it during the encore I guess I pissed someone off. The stage was covered in broken glass by the time I left. Pat said he saw a dude getting particularly violent breaking bottles and being restrained by his friends. It is possible when I jumped into the crowd that I may have inadvertently injured him or someone in his party. If so, it was a mistake and I apologize for my carelessness and hopefully such misunderstandings can be worked out verbally in the future and not in the senseless destruction of alcoholic beverage containers.
After the show Pat was worried the guy would try and fight me, so he made sure to accompany me (all Bob Seger style) as I left the cushy confines of the backstage area to go help sell merch.
After a brief respite at Parson's Indian Trading Post in the Wisconsin Dells, we rolled into Minneapolis and saw that the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players were opening for Kate Nash at First Avenue, the club upstairs from the 7th St. Entry, where we would play.
It's little surprises like this that make touring exciting. I walked into the First Ave, found the fam and caught up with them, glad to figure that I would be able to catch their set and even moreso that they'd be able to see some of ours.
Their songs "Look at Me" and "Don't You Know What I Mean" (featured on their Cass Records 7") are still so strong and pure in my heart that I feel on the verge of tears when I hear them live. Rachel seems so grown up and I feel some sort of pride in watching her perform…the song where she played ukulele and sang about pigeons (she wrote it herself!) was even more wistful beauty and I still can't believe that the rest of the world still does not know how amazing this band is.
And to think I first saw them on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and only afterwards asked them to release a record. As a whole, the Trachetenburg single is still my proudest achievement with Cass. I'm a better person for knowing them as they give me hope for families, innovation, America and all kinds of abstract ideas that it's quite easy to be bummed about.
For our last song that night, Sartain yelled out "Tiger Man" a song we'd BARELY even goofed on at sound check. After listening to a few passes of his frantic strumming I cooked into a go-to Sartain Beat (or "Everything I Need to Know About Playing Drums for This Guy I Learned By Watching Ben Swank When I Was 17-Years-Old" as I like to call it) and Rufus Thomas could not have been prouder.
Our set was strong, just nothing particular stands out about it. Afterwards Kate Nash (headliner of the T-burg show upstairs) came up and said she really liked it. I guess she's a big deal, but I've still never heard her stuff. She mentioned that her boyfriend's band opened for us ages ago and when I had no idea what band that would be she said it was the Cribs. All at the same club I first met Jason Pierce. Thus concludes my name-dropping for the UK audiences.
Hotel was converted from an old train station into a cedar-smelling lodge with confusing circuitous room numbering and a numbingly brilliant way of fucking up our reservations that left me on a rollaway bed. I made a cup of noodles and lacking utensils had to venture out to the van (in some god-forsaken outfit, I'm sure) to obtain a spoon from the carry-out container I'd filled with plastic cutlery in a fit of prescience at catering in Milwaukee.