Cincinnati, the area around Bogart's over the past couple of years has been suffering from the fallout of a ghetto bomb. When Sudsy's, a nightclub/laundromat combo can't stay open, you know something's clearly wrong. Mike's Music, next door to 'garts, is one of the best instrument stores in this nation. I was devilishly tempted by a $150 Sigma acoustic that sounded like heaven, but decided against it. I bought a bad-ass four pickup Conqueror there back in 2003 and it's still the instrument I own that I love the most.
Pat bought a hi-hat stand, which was fitting because mine broke later that night and I would re-appropriate his old one for myself.
Bogart's is a scummy, nigh-dilapidated club that seems suited for metal bands in their aging years. There wasn't a spot in the place that came remotely close to comfortable. Broken chairs and couches, no wireless internet and an overall grimy vibe that one couldn't escape anywhere in the building was decidedly depressing.
Walked up the street to a record store that didn't sell 45's and therefore didn't seem like it needed my business. Further up the street was an Urban Outfitters housed inside a building that clearly used to be a church. This is what is wrong with America.
I ate at the Subway located in a gas station across the street. We played. After the show all us Dirtbombs went to a Skyline Chili for late-night eats. Cincy is known for it's chili (the only place where there's at least TWO omnipresent chili franchises) so it seemed like a no-brainer. With an overall vibe like a Denny's, no one was pleased with their food.
I ordered the coney bowl, which is three hot dogs served in a bowl of chili topped off with a gluttonous mound of cheese. The chili and cheese were both equally bland and the dogs were very middle-of-the-road. Which is hilarious, because I love the hell out of almost all hot dogs, cheese AND chili. How did Skyline to manage to goof up three pretty easy classics? For shame.
Random Overheard Comment #2 of the tour: Walking into our Cincy hotel, another patron, speaking on a cell phone while exiting the hotel:
"Yeah man, you gotta just tear that pussy up"
It's contradictory moments like this, where one is desperate for context and direction of the conversation at the same time as not wanting to know an ounce more of info than they've already gleaned, that are comfortingly conflicting and grounding at the same time.
Next morn we breakfast at a Whole Foods with a lackluster fresh cooked food selection. My lasagna was weak and the herb-encrusted tofu slice was bland. From there to Shake It! Records, a fine establishment that I hadn't been to in about 8 years. Shake It is a solid record store…I bought some post cards and LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver as I'd been meaning to listen to it for the past year. And I hipped Zack to a rare-ish Hentchmen single on Front Porch that even impressed the guy working the counter. Score.
Drive to Indianapolis was quick. Once in the neighborhood of the Vogue the overwhelming flux of pedestrians clad in Colt's jerseys was oppressive. It seems that in Indianapolis people go to the bar to watch NFL games, even if they're start time is 1pm. Each and every bar was packed and bumping. The vintage store where I bought a pair of 517's…not so much.
We got some free pizza from the folks at Hot Box (next door to the theater) in exchange for signing an empty pizza box for them to display on their wall. The pizza was vegan (Zack ordered it…go figure) and not bad. We loafed around killing time around our van in the back parking lot, just plain bored.
Ko and Zack each gave away a half-case of beer from the stage during our set. Jaleel played keys and Tunde sang back-ups on our version of "Underdog" that night. We loaded out immediately after our set and made our way off towards Minneapolis.
Random Overheard Comment#3: Two men talking inside gas station
"You better get the Mexicans up here…I ain't doing that shit."
In Minneapolis the next day, our first time lucky enough to play the big room at First Avenue. Spent most all of my time backstage, not caring to venture outside. We played well and a portion of the audience seemed to "get" it and "it'" reflected in our merch sales.
Ko, Pat and Zack would go and hang with TVOTR after the show while Mick and I chilled back at the hotel. While there I got a text from Dave of TVOTR that said "Are you blogging about how sweaty my nutsack is?" to which I replied "Hell yizeah! I'll give you $100 if you get Zack to drink tonight."
The funny thing is, Zack doesn't drink and Dave didn't know this. And Zack didn't know that I'd offered Dave money to do this. It apparently found Zack having to respectfully decline the beer and whiskey being forced upon him by Dave. From there Dave questioned him "Name me one good straight-edge musician" to which Zack replied "Ian Mackaye" and Dave countered with "Ok, I'll give you Mackaye…name me one more" to which Zack had no reply.
Time down the next day would prove fruitful. Bought the new Vampire Hands and Little Claw singles at Treehouse where Mick contemplated $40 for a Rebel Records compilation LP (he decided against it). Further up the street at Tatters I got two pair of Levi's Sta-Prest…one off-white and another a green almost houndstooth pattern. The mac'n'cheese and salad combo at the French Meadow Bakery was simple, tasty and a treat.
All ages show for the second night at First Avenue and TV on the Radio were bestowed with the honor of having their name emblazoned on the exterior of the club, replacing a star formerly occupied by Limp Bizkit. Justice…served. While the underage kids seemed bored at moments during our set, when confronted with a stage right drummer imploring them to smile, they get all giggly and appear, on the surface at least, to be enjoying themselves.
We trek out of town that night because of the longish distance to Chicago. Hotel in the middle of nowhere, I wake early in the morning for the swimming pool and am slightly pissed when I see a sign that declares the pool open 24 hours a day. This is completely unprecedented and had we known, there surely would have been a 2am swimming party the night before. Instead, I swam alone, the maintenance man making awkward conversation with me about the weather. The hot tub was magnificent, what a relaxing, refreshing, revitalizing way to start the day.
We arrive in Chicago at Strange Cargo. I put off my Italy Records t-shirt a little longer and instead head across the street to the salon where my sister was getting her hair colored. Sat with her until all the dye was washed out and she was a newly brunette beauty. Walked up the street to her crib where she made microwave nachos and we watched the History Channel before heading back to the van and off to the Riviera Theater.
Waiting for sound check I did an interview with my sister for one of her college classes. She had to talk to someone in sales so her older brother and his bedroom record label were what she chose to focus on.
Soundcheck was a fucking nightmare. The sap running monitors had absolutely no clue on how to operate the board. I wish I was using some sort of hyperbole here, but sadly I am not. After hitting my kick drum for about 45 seconds I stop and ask if I'm checking for my monitor. When he says yes, I realize the futility and just tell him not to worry about it and go on to someone else.
During the set Mick's vocals were loud and shrill in the monitors and painfully so. It was LAUGHABLE how bad our onstage sound was coming from a supposedly professionally-run theater. Every other aspect of the club was top-notch…stupendous catering, attentive security guards, everyone else was great. But the monitor tech should be fired for his all-encompassing inability to operate a mixing board.
Got to meet a good chunk of Zack's family backstage and was told that when he was little he would point to Billy Idol on MTV and say "That's what I'm gonna do." It's weird, because I've shared a bed with Billy Idol too, so in that respect, Zack's achieved his dreams.
We have to leave Chicago after the show because of the long trek to New Orleans. We found ourselves in Arcola the next day and experienced the cornucopia of delights the small town had to offer. We wisely chose to eat at the Dutch Kitchen as opposed to the Mexican restaurant closer to the interstate exit.
The Dutch Kitchen was listed as an Amish restaurant. None of us having eaten Amish before, we had to try it. The place was packed and with only one waitress we were warned it'd be a while before our order would be taken/served but we had an open schedule. I ordered Amish rope sausage with mashed potatoes, stuffing and green beans. It was, in a word, delicious. The Amish might be on to something.
For dessert, Shoe-Fly Pie, somewhat reminiscent of a coffee cake, but Entemann's ain't got nothing on this scrumptious little treat. The ingredients had the whole of the band trying to figure out just exactly what sorghum is.
Across the street was a pretty amazing antique store. I got some nice postcards (one a real photo that may or may not show a Ku Klux Klan gathering), a post-mortem photo and a plastic Sesame Street plate that I believe was present during my childhood. Stuff equally as cool but not purchased included an electric butter churn, a battery-powered cymbal-clanging monkey, sheet music for "The Tears of a Clown" and a plethora of quilts and other hand-made finery.
From there across the street to the Raggedy Ann and Andy Museum. I know…how lucky are we? The creator of those red-haired scamps, Johnny Gruelle was born in Arcola and his granddaughter runs the museum/gift shop with ardent fervor. The one-room museum does an admirable job on a subject, for me at least, that seemed only remotely interesting.
The size of the museum and it's $1 entry fee notwithstanding, the whole operation was quite impressive, from murals Gruelle had painted in a basement in Vermont carefully transported back to Arcola, to the plethora of all kinds of Raggedy merchandise from over the years and it's curious popularity in Japan, I was left thinking that they must still pull in some serious dough for the licensing of it. Check it out at…
From there we had a serious 8 hours of driving through rain. It may not read like a lot, but I exaggerate not when I say it did not stop raining for 8 interminable hours. After a solid five of unrelenting downpour I began to keep my eyes peeled for an ark on the horizon. Somewhere outside of Illinois we chanced upon a gas station with switchblades for sale. I bought one, told Zack about it and he seemed almost TOO excited about the possibility of buying his own.
After being shown a model by the clerk, he attempted to hand it back to the woman who wouldn't touch it. "Can you put it back in the box please? I don't want my finger prints on it." Zack, because he's planning to personally stage a one-man rendition of West Side Story, then bought two switchblades.
Of all my years touring this would be first gas station I'd see with switchblades for sale. Sure enough, our next stop that very same day not an hour later would also have them availble for purchase. Ko then bought one for herself at this stop. At this point, the van has more knives than the Swiss Army? More knives than a Japanese chef? More knives than a redneck? More knives than the propsmaster for the 1970's gangsploitation flick "The Warriors"? Pleas feel free to create your own punchline in the comments section.
Outside the gas station was a lonely beagle, skittish and apprehensive about human contact. Zack bought some Slim Jims and fed 'em to the hound, increasingly receptive to interaction. Pup was just sitting there, no home, nowhere to go. I think every single one of us individually contemplated just scooping him up and having a new band mascot. Touring life just wasn't made for dogs, so we ventured back into the pouring rain, all a little bit sadder than before encountering the pooch, with our eyes set on an early arrival in New Orleans.