Is it even worth writing about a 4-day trip? I guess so when there's a new bass player. Practices were at Zack's house and the Woodbridge rental's basement would be the third such environ I've rehearsed at in my relatively boring musical career.
Drive to Morgantown was spent absorbing every last quip in the latest (lastest?) issue of Chunklet. As a contributor to a publication with no set schedule that also employs the donated efforts of dozens of others means combing through the pages and trying to remember exactly what the fuck it was I wrote for the issue. It's a fun little game and it makes the belly laughs all the more memorable.
Morgantown has nothing around. After soundcheck I kill most of my time on free WiFi reading the Free Press. Opening band Treasure Cat have a bass player who's fucking awesome. Head shaved except for symmetrical hammer-shaped tufts of hair positioned over each ear. Tantalizing virtuoso vocal-less metal to adore.
The show, all of these shows actually, are just to road-test Zach before the big dates with TV on the Radio. I know what you're thinking, "Ben, the Dirtbombs weren't playing West Virginia on a Wednesday night for all of the dozens of dollars you'd be paid, all the free water you could drink or the stage that was entirely carpeted?" And I would tell you no, we were not. Shock. Horror. Sarcasm.
The show went smoothly. Highlight was the Liars-like jam we ended with…having only learned enough songs for our set and one for the encore.
Someone at the show said his buddy from A.R.E. Weapons tried really hard to get on the bill and that the guy (Greg?) was friends with us. No idea what in the fuck that was about. With our attempt to rock some Priceline hotels a failure, we instead tried the blind draw that found us visiting three chain hotel establishments we settled on a local family run facility situated on a hill with actual metal keys for the doors and an interior that was only mildly depressing.
Zack and I share a bed on his first night in the band and it was only vaguely gay.
Wake up at ten for the longish ride to Nashville. The ribbing of Zack on being vegan was by now in full-swing and was not expected to end until mid-December.
Arrival at the end and we're surprised to see the Turbo Fruits kids pull up right behind us. They would be opening the show and that was an unexpected treat. After told by the egregious sound man there would be no sound check, I hoof on over to Café Coco.
It need not be stressed here that I dig a restaurant in a building clearly meant as a single family home. Coco follows in this re-appropriative approach and catering to all types while attracting a specifically hipster quotient, the end result has varied on my multiple trips there.
This visit would be stellar. My ham and cheese served hot on a croissant instantly melted in my mouth. Their bottled sodas (crème soda and orange crème) were refreshing and while their grasp of poutine was misguided – the dish is meant to be served with cheese curds, not shredded cheese, which thus made their offering "disco fries" – the overall sensation of a meal well-eaten was extremely welcomed by this lone diner. Add to that the free WiFi to kill the time and the overly friendly attitude of everyone (I was even given a copy of a free print zine based on feminism in Nashville) and I strongly urge you eat there if given the chance.
Kintaro was a surprisingly good band for the first of three slot, a spot usually occupied by something a pinch above dogshit. If they had/have recordings, I would listen to them.
Turbo Fruits were stellar. While no longer stuck with the "Be Your Own Pet side project" tag, they've grown in scary good ways. Songs like the absurdly catchy "Mom's Mad 'Cause I Fried My Brains" and "Broadzilla" showcase Jonas Stein's ever-building guitar arsenal. Rumor is he's playing Junior Brown's Fender Bullet and that kind of mojo can only help the cause.
I'd long said about Be Your Own Pet that I really wanted to see what they'd be doing in five years…it was THAT record I thought would really kick-ass. With BYOP no longer around, I'm looking towards Turbo Fruits to make that album and I don't feel I'll be disappointed.
The show was decent. We played no encore. Highlight would be Artemis Pyle of Lynyrd Skynyrd coming backstage afterwards to tell us how much he loved the show. Mick was particularly excited about this.
Night and early next day spent away from the band was refreshing…made me forget I was on tour and that's a priceless feeling. Met up at Grimey's and bought the new Modey Lemon full-length and the Melvins' Bullhead and Lysol on CD as I'd tired of the limited use I'd received out of their LP counterparts.
On our way out of town Pat noticed us driving past United Record Pressing. With no discernible schedule guiding us, we thought it worthy to try and scam a factory tour. We mumbled some white lies about being from Archer in Detroit (thinking we'd need an "in") and were easily granted entrée into vinyl Valhalla.
What impressed me most about United's operation was the sheer size of it all. They had upwards of twenty 12" presses and around eight 7" presses. Seeing them all at work, feeling the heat peel off the machine and onto your skin…it's an intensely physical experience.
United still keeps up the apartments they furnished for visiting black labels/artists who had troubles with lodging in Nashville in the 1960's. Apparently all the top artists at Motown, along with Berry Gordy, spent much time in these quarters, still with its original furniture from the era. There's even little museum-quality displays with important records they've pressed prominently featured. We appreciated their effort.
Our tour guide, a Detroit ex-pat, seemed truly delighted on taking us through the multiple floors and buildings of the entire complex. In the warehouse he relayed us a story about a label with dead stock (ie, unused LP jackets) and then the label going out of business. The records are then picked up by another label, but they don't own the jackets and they have the wrong logo on them anyways. So it just becomes a big confusing mess of red tape and ownership that usually ends up with the dead stock sent off to be recycled.
He then cracks open a box, one of many, to reveal TONS of unused V2 LP jackets for White Blood Cells. There were easily hundreds if not THOUSANDS of them there and it spanned all of the Stripes first four albums. It was weird and totally unexpected.
After spending about an hour around the complex, we said our goodbyes and thank-you's. It was truly a fascinating tour and it's a definite "must-do" if you ever find yourself in Nashville.
Drive to Knoxville got rainy and boring. Pulled into the Pilot Light and the Obama v. McCain debate was rear-projected on the wall. Walked next door to Woodward books and tried to convince Zack to spend some of his new-found Dbombs dough on Salinger's first appearance in hardback, The Kit Book. While I bought nothing, I did find Woodward's discretion in used books offered as very, very impressive. They didn't meddle in bullshit or junk. Only the finest and it showed.
Next door to the book store was the Knoxville Pearl, a fanciful cereal bar that resembled a basement rec room. I ponied up for a bowl of Cookie Crisp with skim and sat and watched the debate on an ancient television the size of a large game cat and housed in wood…the kind of television found in the middle of every vacant lot in Detroit.
I was quite impressed with what Knox had to offer. The cereal bar seemed like a simple, easy idea worked to fruition and enjoying its quirky, off-the-wall style. There seemed to be culture going on and that's not what you'd be able to say about most cities in the American South.
Dan Melchior opened the show and that was a welcome surprise. The crowd for us was receptive and ably earned the encore we foisted upon them.
Zack proved his worth by scoring us rooms at the Crowne Plaza on Priceline at a rock-bottom rate. We enjoyed the views from the 9th floor.
Charlotte would be pretty damn fun. Lunchbox Records across the street from the club, the swank vintage store right next door (and the Toledo-bred owners who opened specifically for us to shop), the Boris/Natasha store with their deceptively cool Ben Sherman wares and the historic Penguin Drive-In ("it was on the Food Network" we were told by many) with it's deep-fried tasty treats.
The show was sponsored by Camel cigarettes and their inflated payout for our performance was really the impetus behind the entire run of shows that week. So when I found myself onstage with the microphone, I took the opportunity to comment that their new Camel Crush brand, by which squeezing the cigarette filter turns your fag into a menthol.
After describing said product, I commented, "If that isn't crack, I don't know what is" Then, an excited fan kept yelling "menthols! menthols!" and I replied "Yes, Mick prefers a menthol" to some discernible laughter. I also found myself almost destroying a metal chandelier as I beat my sticks against it, sending it into a spin that caused the entire fixture to drop about three feet from its perch while still remaining loosely attached to the ceiling.
After the show each and every band member was summarily accosted by members of the audience telling us how much they enjoyed and appreciated the show. But I think I got the best moment with this particularly heady exchange:
Fan: So, do you guys party?
Me: (blank stare, pause about 15 seconds)
Fan: You know, like party party?
I wish everyone else had been in on the conversation rather than just rely on my retelling of it. The owner of the club told us about how the place had an attempted robbery, that there's bulletholes in the floor, that the patrons at the bar were more armed than the robbers. He then pointed out the pool hustler, Chico, who once beat Minnesota Fats and apparently knows a hooker who'll fellate him for $5.
Charlotte, a town none of us had ever been to before, was a great town and has certainly afforded itself inclusion on future tour routings.