With only a short drive between DC and Baltimore, we had some free time to explore the Charm City. Ko would shout every thirty seconds that some street corner was used in filming "The Wire" and the rest of us would all feign excitement.
We'd somehow found info for a random mall that we figured would be an easy way to kill time. As we drove from neighborhood to blighted-out neighborhood, it became clear we were headed to, as Chris Rock would put it, "the mall white people USED to go to."
Seriously, the degree of decrepitude witnessed in the depths of Baltimore make Detroit look like a resort.
We didn't even bother venture inside, instead we made our way completely out of the city to Arundel Mills mall. Big and bright and new and teeming with the overall feeling that makes you equally hate and love capitalism, we all found it suitable to our needs. Pat and Troy and I peeped The Dark Knight in a capacity theater, Ko bought clothes and Mick spent every moment at the chaotic Build-A-Bear workshop (it was Panda-monium!)
From there to headline our own show at the Ottobar…record store next door offered nothing worth note and instead Ko and I made way to Paper Moon Diner down the street. The food was forgettable, but the zany décor covered every square inch of this converted home and the atmosphere was fun.
I slept through opening bands. We played and all the fun and excitement and good times filling the room when we'd played town not three months ago was completely lost. It was a weird, hostile, borderline violent air in the room. As we ended with me on the microphone imploring them all to dance, said request was met with some fool wildly moshing the place to bits.
I instantly grabbed the guy and tried to squeeze him into submission, eventually ending up pinning him to the ground to get my point across. He apologized after the show, so that felt nice. Otherwise, the weird vibes in Balti were plenty enough for the entire tour.
NYC the next day. I hate guestlists. We had ten spots on ours and it was like a UN Security Council Meeting trying to properly divvy those up. Funnily enough, the club, Terminal 5, was nowhere near sold out. If people REALLY wanted to see us, they could just pay the cash at the door. But what fun is that?
We played decent. None better nor worse. But for all the effort, in getting there on time, the guestlist rigamarole, the excitement of playing such a huge place (3800 capacity) by the time we'd finished I just felt deflated and like I'd wasted my time.
Nevermind the debacle of figuring out where to stay/park the van afterwards. A headache to end all headaches, after about two hours of deliberating and driving and numerous changes of plan, I ended up in Brooklyn sleeping on our publicist's couch while the van took its familiar slumber in Jersey City.
Next morn Pat and Mick and I gathered for a little bit of a press junket. We began with a video interview (with a wonderful girl from West Bloomfield) for Uncensored TV. They encouraged us to be raw, vulgar, to curse…as the name says, completely uncensored. Yet if you want to drink a bottle of Poland Spring water on camera, they firmly request that you remove the label. Hilarious. View the shenanigans here:
From there we waltzed down the street to WNYU's basement studios to spin some tunes and chat with Kayla Cohen on the (so I'm told) legendary New Afternoon show. They had a picture of Nirvana in the studio back in '89. I was impressed. We played:
4:57 PM Death "Rock and Roll Victim"
4:59 PM Viva La American Death Ray Music "Tabloids"
5:00 PM Tyvek "Air Conditioner"
5:08 PM The Tammys "Egyptian Shumba"
5:10 PM Big Star "O My Soul" Radio City (Ardent Records)
5:16 PM The Slits "Earthbeat" Return of the Giant Slits
5:23 PM Music Convention "Belly Board Beat" CD
5:27 PM Arctic Monkeys "If You Found This, It's Probably Too Late"
5:28 PM Mick Bassett & the Marthas "The Keepers"
5:35 PM The Fire Engines "Get Up And Use Me"
5:39 PM X-ray Spex "Warrior In Woolworths"
5:41 PM Margot Benitez and the Mellotones "Winos on Parade"
5:46 PM The Dirtbombs "Kick Me"
"Kick Me" being the song's world premier, originally intended for release as a New Zealand tour single.
From there I searched for sneakers, spent much time and money at Rockit Scientist (Chubby Checker's psychedelic album a highlight), the same with St. Mark's Books, caught up with my buddy Nick for lunch and tramped around the neighborhood with impunity.
My cuisine for the night would be perfect. I started with a medium cup of frozen vanilla yogurt topped with Captain Crunch at Pinkberry and immediately followed it up with a mac'n'cheese croquet at the automat down the block. From there, tasty fresh poutine made right in front of me. How could I ever complain? Late night was a Blue 9 cheeseburger that was scrumptious.
I slept on a loveseat and had a slice from Artichoke Pizzeria for breakfast. Apparently the current hot pizza joint among NYC foodies and usually commanding a 35 minute wait for a slice, we slipped in and out in less than five and enjoyed their unique take on pie. Not usually a fan of spinach and artichoke, I was easily won over with their smooth, creamy concoction. Do search it out.
I pretty much hate Philadelphia with all my heart. I don't remember soundchecking, but I do remember hitting a record store on South Street where the girl behind the counter was really enthusiastically foisting the Dirtbombs on a customer. She even pulled out If You Don't Already... in hopes of getting him to the show that evening. I stood there bemused, waiting for a brilliant dis of the band that (un)fortunately never came.
From there I munched a cheese steak at Ishkabibbles. Not bad, but I'm told there are better in the city.
With a family wedding fast approaching the day I was set to arrive back in Detroit, I was in desperate need in figuring out how to tame my wild mane and homeless beard. I couldn't arrive to the nuptials looking like I'd just starred in "Bumfights 15" and it's not like I knew any barbers anywhere. I was feeling, to put it bluntly, screwed.
Luckily, South Street offers just about anything you could hope for. I saw what I could only describe as a traditional black barbershop. You know, the kind that Ice Cube makes movies about? Yes, that kind…the kind that I really have no reason going to. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
Upon first pass the shop was full, two barbers both working fastidiously on customers. All of them were black and this was slightly intimidating. I decided to come back later.
Second pass found both barbers on the front steps and I sheepishly asked one "I know this may sound weird, but can you cut my hair?"
What I was secretly hoping for was a burst of laughter. Or the look of fire in his eyes. Or a shove to the chest. Instead, all I got was a "sure, he can take care of you."
(let it be known that the one I asked to cut my hair had directed me to his partner and I'm assuming this meant that he himself was not capable to cut my hair or had graduated from the Malcom X School of Follicle Fervor)
The man who did cut my hair and shave my beard was courteous and professional. He washed my hair before anything and I realized he was only the second man (after my father and not including myself) to ever wash my hair. He put some chemical on my head that slightly burned my scalp and Jay-Z blared over the soundsystem the entire time, but other than his every snip being extremely calculated and decisive, it was no different from any other haircut I'd ever received.
And I guess that was my problem. I was hoping for a great story to tell and all I left with was a decent haircut. I pretty much walked directly onstage after my trim and after we played, Spiritualized's tour manager looked at me perplexed and asked "Did you get your hair cut onstage?"
Now THAT would've been a story to tell