Arriving at the Vogue in Indianapolis was comfy. Polite loaders from the club grabbed our gear and brought it inside, I set up my drums quickly on the floor and then made way to Indy CD's just up the road.
Ran into Jason Pierce on the way there and we kinda shopped together, holding up records, asking if the other had heard them, recommending other records, talking at length about the MC5 and the Stooges and discussing the merits of portable turntables, USB turntables, and LP flight cases.
Spiritualized and their protracted sound check prevented us from doing much to prepare onstage (and found both bands scuttling plans to film spots for My Old Kentucky Blog), but it mattered not. Openers Thunders were relatively decent and with room for 45 minutes of us onstage, we undershot ourselves and were out in under 35. It all felt good though, while our first time in ages playing such a short set and subsequently cutting much material, it all went reasonably well.
Immediately upon the conclusion of our set our gear was kindly but quickly loaded out of the building and we were left to break down outside. This is vaguely demoralizing, but the endorphins from the performance helped mask the feeling.
Spiritualized was fantastic.
We decided to drive a bit and ended up in a crazy-scary storm. The rain was impenetrable and if that was all it wouldn't warrant a mention. But it was accompanied by the most consistent and bright lightning any of us had ever seen, with surprisingly little thunder. I dubbed it "strobe lightning" because it was frequent enough to simulate a strobe effect.
We crawled along the highway until a worthy rest exit beckoned safe harbor. We piled into the Steak and Shake and had one of the best band meals of all time.
First off, our waitress, Caroline, had to be the happiest, most cheerful waitress to ever be stuck with the midnight-to-six shift. The smile never left her face and she was vibrant the entire length of our stay.
I started with one of their Sides-By-Side™ Milk Shakes, vanilla and orange and it tasted like a creamsicle. Man it was heavenly and properly separated like a custom colored vinyl pressing (think the White Stripes "Party of Special Things to Do") and Caroline even told me the company secret of how they keep the flavors apart.
We laughed endless at the "Chili 5-way" and "Chili Mac" on the menu, even made up a 6th grade level parody song about the perils of diarrhea to the tune of "Jimmy Mack" by the Marvellettes. The only lyric I remember is "Chili Mac, don't want you coming back"
The paper placemats were a source of infinite amusement. With one proclaiming "A calculator amount of combinations" for an order where one could pick any two of ten sides, Pat said in his cocksure tone "You don't need a calculator for that." So I replied, "Then how many combinations are there?" and he stumbled for a second before offering "Well…I'm not that good with math, so…" and I finished his sentence "…YOU'LL NEED A CALCULATOR!" to which the rest of the band laughed uproariously.
(as an aside, I did come up with the number of combos while we were seated there. I think it was 42. What's the calculator function one would use to determine this tally? My first thought was factorial, but I'm almost certain that's wrong. Any budding math majors here?)
My placemat said "So bacon, we meet again" and I loved it so much that I refused to eat on it and instead cut out the phrase and kept it in my back pocket for inspiration.
I ate a cup of soup (probably chicken noodle), an order of cheese fries and the pepperjack burger. It may read like a lot, but besides the gas station hot dog earlier in the day and some tortilla chips backstage, I hadn't eaten anything substantial since the night before. I was overdue and Steak and Shake won my heart.
We drove not much further and decamped at a Super 8 Motel. Having stayed almost exclusively at Best Western's in the US for the past few months, this opening tour and its more restrictive budget would find us experimenting with some of the less-frequented (to us) lodging chains available to the American consumer.
The Super 8 seemed fine. All the hotels seem to blur together though. I killed 5 ants somewhere down South, one room emanated a stench fairly described as death in the air and another had a Wifi signal so weak (and I was so desperate) that it was only accessible in 4 foot by 4 foot square of concrete on the second level overlooking the front desk and I sat outside being eaten alive by skeeters while the signal operated at the speed of a lone kayaker crossing the Atlantic on one of those soul-searching journeys.
The next day (or possibly even the next next day) found us eating lunch at Macaroni Grill. Having never been there before, I envisioned nothing but grilled macaroni and was DELIGHTED to no end about this. Turns out to be just another middling Italian chain restaurant (what is an Italian chain anyway? Does it smell like garlic?)
They called their olive oil "Italian water" and the tablecloth was actually two pieces of butcher paper overlapping each other. We were given crayons to decorate the paper as we saw fit. Ko wrote everyone's names with arrows pointing at them and I wrote "gay" with an arrow pointing at her. Troy sketched sad looking faces while I interpreted the restaurant's name literally and drew a hydrocephalic cartoon character with macaroni noodles for teeth wearing a t-shirt that said "Grill'd to Perfection"
All of this was infinitely more memorable that whatever meddling meta-Mediterranean muck they served us at exorbitant "lunchtime" prices.
Nashville found us in the cavernous City Hall. After check we made it next door to Ru-San's, a sushi place we've eaten at twice before on previous tours. I'd been told the original owner had sold the place and that it'd suffered ever since.
The host came up to us and told us he couldn't seat us for at least twenty minutes because a server hadn't shown up. We asked if we could just sit and order at the bar…he said we could sit, but that no one would be able to take our order for twenty minutes. At that point, a waitress walked past and asked him "What are you doing?" and said that he should just put us at a table. Awkward to be caught in the middle, we chaired it at the bar and he poured (what I believe was) complimentary sake.
When asked what happened, he replied "The state liquor board was outside and the managers split." Now even if that was the case…is that the kind of information one should be sharing with customers who've yet to even get a table? Was it some sort of warning for us to get out?
Once seated an additional server showed up and my mom and her best friend joined us. It was interesting trying to turn these two women in their fifties on to new food. I guess the older you get, the more set in your ways you're likely to become. But Pat and Mick were awesome, explaining the intricacies of yakisoba, nigiri and sashimi with dedicated patience on-par with special-ed teachers.
Mom and Susie dug their food (I was excited for them) and although the service, décor and overall crowdedness of the restaurant was nowhere near what it was under the previous owner, the food was still as delicious as ever. And really, in the end, that's all I should really judge by.
Our set was solid…as we'd ended short in Indy we added "Sharpest Claws" and "Candyass" to even us out at a proper 45 minutes. During "Can't Stop Thinking About It" I wrapped my arms around the beam directly over my drums and climbed my way over to Pat, landed (almost) on his bass drum and began beating away at his rack tom. When trying to win over a crowd, most of whom did not know you existed prior to that day, it was necessary to pull out all the stops, I figured.
Mom and Susie watched two songs by Spiritualized then split. They apparently were apparently won over enough with our set that they needed no more rock.
Harmony Korine was on the guest list plus fifteen. That may be the biggest plus I've ever seen. He was backstage after the show. Ko may or may not have met him. We piled into our van and made a couple miles outside of town to our hotel.