Wednesday, June 25, 2008

West Coast Part Two: Yer Never Too Old to Start Acting Young Again...

Next morn on Lynndale Ave in Minneapolis and I spend all my time at Treehouse Records. Picked up an LP copy of Beck's Mellow Gold as well jams like the La Beat Records Story, the Dethklok album, the live recording of Metal Machine Music by that weirdo German outfit, the Italians Do it Better After Dark compilation and some random new 45's that Treehouse is always good for.

The night before, Srini Radhakrishna (formerly of the questionably-legendary Guilty Pleasures and currently of France Has the Bomb) hipped me to a band called Vampire Hands, saying they're the hot new shit in town and that they're possibly even in talks with Sub Pop. Not only did Treehouse have Vampire Hands first two LP's AND play them for us in store to see if we dug it (we did), but the guy behind the counter was the guy behind putting them out.

When word-of-mouth things happen so nicely like that, it makes me feel like everything in the world is alright and that the Internet is just bullshit. We made talk with Mr. Treehouse and I was lucky enough to garner the super-secret discount for my wares. He's good people.

From there to the health food co-op down the street where the whole van loaded up on whatnots and whathaveyous. I got some Tom's of Maine toothpaste, unsure of whether I wanted (or needed) fluoride or not, as well as Paul Newman peanut butter cups, an organic croissant, some fruity fru-fru pansy electrolyte drink and a jar of royal jelly for Pat and I to split.

The royal jelly goes back to a story relayed to us by Chris Sutton of C.O.C.O. Apparently the members of Nation of Ulysses would down handfuls of the stuff before going onstage and that was supposed to be the secret to their overabundance of energy for their live performances. Anything good enough for Svenonius had to be good enough for us, right?

So cut to backstage in Fargo, Pat and I each swallow a lovin' spoonful of the stuff a little before going onstage. It's sweet but not overly so…if anything it's unpredictably viscous (that's what she said).

While tempted to grab a microphone and offer audience members $20 for the most embarrassing story they could offer about Chuck Klosterman, I only remember leaving the stage and saying the set felt "kinda fast" to which Ko, Troy and Mick replied, sarcastically, "You think?"

So while the royal jelly didn't find me jumping out second story window's with snare drum in hand or using two beer taps as drumsticks, it did, at the very least, propel the drummers to a speed slightly faster than usual. But I'm still waiting to turn into Steve Gamboa.

Hotel in Fargo felt brand new, wooden log façade (or hell, maybe it was actually a log cabin Best Western) and an overall nice smell to it. Right down the street from Space Alien Café, the worst eatery in all of town. We did a proper van clean up and briefing for our border crossing and all went smoothly.

West End Cultural Center seemed a bit off for us to be playing in Winnipeg, a place more-suited for touring theater productions rather than sweaty fag rock. On a pole outside the club was a Live Nation-commissioned Canadian tour poster…a towheaded Dennis the Menace-esque illustration complete with striped t-shirt and handful of dirt in mid-heave and I reveled in notifying the band that I and I alone was the one depicted on the Canadian posters.

Biggest bummer of the Winni show was noticing a significant crack in my ride cymbal. Boo. It's not worth it trying to buy cymbals in Canada with their imported prices and unnecessary sales-pitch "eh's" so I accepted the fact that I'd be somewhat screwed for the next week or so until we made it back to the States.

Dudes up front in Turbojugend jackets were into our jams and that was cool. But I've always wondered, do you have to send away UPC codes or something to get one? Because they're all personalized with your city and some vaguely homoerotic nickname and I can't imagine they just have a pile of "Turbojugend Vinnipeg" with "StevenSemen" jackets with them on tour.

So when I got the mic, I took the opportunity to ask this question in a clear and non-threatening way. The thing is, saying the phrase "Turbojugend" itself is threatening to jacket wearers if not immediately followed by the words "FUCKING ROCKS!"

So when I got into the crowd they were kinda messing with me, friendly pushing and the like. But when Pat and I commenced throwing our cracked cymbals at each other in a majestic, almost balletic finesse, I took to slamming mine at the edge of the stage and they took to spraying me with beer. I slickly unplugged Mick's adjacent pedals and tossed them out of beer spray's way and then used the cymbal as a Captain America-like shield from the stouts and lagers.

As I returned to the stage to break down my equipment, one of the dudes took to trying to start shit with me, asking "Why you gotta 'dis the Jugend man?" and "Come over here (to the edge of the stage) I just want to talk to you" to which I replied I was not dissing the Jugend, recited some lyrics from the song "Denim Demon" and refused to go to the edge of the stage, me being fully engrossed in the intricacies of breaking down a hi-hat stand like never before or since.

To add further challenge to it all, the club had received our big 'ole merchandise order for the rest of the tour. T-shirts with Morrisey on them, t-shirts with "You Are Being Watched" emblazoned across the chest, Blackula tote bags and possibly even other shit I'm forgetting arrived in Winnipeg to the tune of five huge cardboard boxes.

The van was already overstuffed with shit and as resident Tetris expert, I delighted in figuring out a way to make it all fit. By shoving my floor tom (which already had my rack tom telescoped inside) through my barely there batter-side kick drum head, I'd freed up a good cubic yard of space and with some more wiggling and jiggling and pushing and squeezing, I managed to get all the bullshit safely into our fifteen passenger boat.

Whenever such a packing feat is accomplished, you mark the occasion by saying one special phrase, "It's a beautiful thing." And indeed, it was.

Our hotel that night was purely Canadian in the fact that it had a water slide. As you traverse the Canadian Prairie the sudden omnipresence of waterslides becomes an inexplicable phenomenon along the lines of the Marfan Lights or Webkinz. This being the first time in memory we'd stayed at such a lodge and with Pantano and Sartain tying up the in-room shower the next morning (but not together…I don't think) I took to swimming as my means of bathing.

(cut to a golden nugget from Sartain…"Men will use going swimming as a reason to NOT shower, whereas women use going swimming as a reason to HAVE to shower." The man is full of them)

With the pool to myself I curiously press the "On" button for jets to the slide and with a youthful curiosity, climb to the top of the structure, anticipating an anticlimactic descent into the chlorinated depths.

So understand that upon being spit out of the curlicued aquatic attraction I was overcome with a complete sense of excitement. That shit was fun as hell! I couldn't, for the life of me, remember the last time I'd partaken in aquatic spirals and the entire experience was rejuvenating. I would proceed to climb those stairs and drop down the slide without a care in the world, seven consecutive times in all.

Moments like this are key to maintaining sanity on tour. Like an evening spent on carnival rides at Luna Park in Melbourne back in 2004, flipping upside down with a beautiful beach evening view, realizing it's all a gas, that the momentary childlike feeling is unpredictable and unmatchable. The waterslide made my tour, reminded me of sun-soaked summers spent slipping and sliding and proved to me yer never too old to start acting young again.

Breakfast at Tim Horton's and Sartain orders what he thought to be a BLT (in actuality it's a B-E-LT, the added "E" being egg). Upon unwrapping his food, he takes a disgusting look and immediately throws the offending chow with Clemens-like velocity into the trashcan and screams "FUCK THIS!"

He then sips at what he had ordered as "sweet tea" (a decidedly Southern offering all but nonexistent in Canada) only to pitch that onto the pavement and bellow "WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT!" To which I didn't have the heart to reply "a 20oz of Lipton Iced Tea, you're in Winnipeg for chrissakes, what did you expect?"

A brief coolant leak scare allayed and the drive to Saskatoon was utterly uneventful. Louie's Pub is a campus-run sort of deal and if the 8x10's on the wall backstage were any indication, if you weren't a really important Canadian band (ie, Barenaked Ladies) then you had no reason playing, exempting Pavement.

The crowd was fairly sparse and Pantano let me use his ride for the Sartain set. Each show with him would get better and better, me actually remember how songs go and where changes come was a welcome departure from shitting my pants trying to follow that guy. I think it'd be the first night Dan yelled out "Cobras 2" without any apparent concern for the fact that not only hadn't we rehearsed it, but that the two of us hadn't actually played the song together since July. Luckily I'm fairly well versed in Sartain's back catalog and we pulled it out of our asses and no one was the wiser.

After the gig we crash the only way we know how…Best Western-style.


Anonymous said...

I just spent far too much time reading up on turbojugends. The jackets, including the chapter-specific selections, are all mail order.* There is a jugend in my city. It has three members; Doktor Morke, matt-tard, and Slave.

* N.B. Jackets are available in children's sizes.

Leyland "Lee" DeVito said...

I like that you guys do royal jelly shots and pastries backstage.

And those "You Are Being Watched" shirts are awesome.

Unpredictably viscous... heh heh.

Colin said...

Hey, I just stumbled upon this. I'm in Vampire Hands. I'm glad you dug the stuff, hope Mark gave you a record or something.