Drive to Knoxville was sunny and refreshing. We stopped at Guitar Center where I bought sticks, a snare head and snares and then "checked-in" to our room at the Extended Stay. This was around 4 in the afternoon. We unloaded our bags and stood patiently in the lobby only to be told that our rooms were not ready.
Really? What's the recommended check-in time then? I'm sorry but you've let us down twice now, I've got not choice but to publicly declare you unfit for touring bands to lodge at.
Bijou Theater had a jovial and joking crew and it made load-in and soundcheck all the much more enjoyable. Mick and I ventured up the street, always under close watch of the Sunsphere, to the Tomato Head restaurant. While it received rave reviews from our tour/band mates, it was satisfied but not blown away. Yet at this point in a tour, any meal that's made to order, doesn't make you vomit and is warm gets a thumbs-up…so thumbs-up to you Tomato Head.
Playing rock and roll music in a seated theater (as an opener) is something I would not wish upon any of you. Stewart the sax-man from TVOTR joined us for "Underdog" and even that seemed to fail to rile the crowd. The less-than-full attendance at least made it possible for me to jump off the stage and climb on the backs of chairs to the middle of the theater and bang on my floor tom right there. Woo-hoo.
Trying to open a window later that eve at the Extended Inn and the screen popped out like some kind of ghetto fab operation. Being on the second floor, I had to have Zack outside to hand me the screen and then bend the shit out of it to get it in a shape that would prevent it from falling out again. How does this establishment survive?
First thing next morning we partake in a long-needed clean-up of the van. Did I mention I found eight different backstage towels in the van when we loaded out in Atlanta? All in various degrees of sweat-soak? And that NO ONE in the band would take responsibility for ANY of them? Like they just magically appeared? I've got a prime suspect (the one who quickly tried changing the subject when everyone else in the van solidly denied any use of the towels) but I won't divulge the name here.
Vacuuming out the van is a fun time, got to show Zack how much of his crap was laying out in the open in the van and amidst the re-organizing and cleaning, the whole space feels cleaner and IS cleaner and has got to be an incredible boost for both mental and respiratory health.
From there off to PF Chang's. All seemed excited about this except Pat, and while everyone seemed delighted with their dish, Pat moped about his $18 salmon not hitting the spot. Conversations earlier this year found me posing the question "Why do Baby-Boomers love the Olive Garden so much? Can't they tell it's a fucking joke? Will there be something that is looked at with similar ridicule with Gen X/Gen Y when they get old?"
In short, it was postulated that Boomers (and older) love Olive Garden because of their unlimited soup and salad. That's it. To them, that's a bargain unlike no other. And yes, there will be a restaurant that our children laugh at us for liking and it is called PF Chang's. You heard it here first.
Day-off drive and we end up in Benton, Arkansas. We did nothing else.
Drive into Texas would be note-worthy for us seeing gas priced at $1.98/gallon. Wow. With about an hour to kill in Dallas, Ko directed the van to a Whole Foods and once parked I hopped up the street to the antique mall (some cool shit, modern furniture, etc that I couldn't take with me) and Good Records.
I bought the Flesh Eaters A Minute to Live, A Second to Die and David Candy's Play Power and picked up a copy of the special-edition book copy of Spirtiualized's Songs in A+E for Ko, as she'd been looking for one.
Lakewood Theater was a cool room. Dating back to the age of the one screen neighborhood movie house, they still show films from time to time and it maintains a certain level of Art Deco design that makes it stick out from the endless blur of other rooms we've played.
I think we won over some fans.
After the show we ended up at the Lakewood Landing with some of the TVOTR guys. It was a nice "upscale dive" as per their description. Met one of the guys from the Paper Chase there and it was nice to put a face to a name I've read countless times in Kill Rock Stars email blasts.
Stayed in a Double Tree again, this time no cookies or cockroaches. Woke up early for a swimming pool shower and the outdoor pool was SO-FUCKING-COLD! I could not manage to get in any further than above my waist and upon exit my legs both felt frostbit to the bone.
Hope of visiting the Sixth Floor Museum was again dashed, this time by a stop at a WaMu. We hit the road for Houston and were looking forward to crossing another House of Blues off our list. I think once we play all of them we get a drink named after us.
Backstage at HoB was a whirlwind of Zack watching previews for the start of the NBA season and me trying to book five separate flights for our European tour. Mick wanted to go out early and to/from New York, Ko wanted to stay late, so did Zack. It was one huge clusterfuck. What was available to me on the Orbitz website the night before as roundtrip flights from Detroit to London for about $730 turned into one-stop each way flights in the upper eight-hundreds.
The rub was, when searching the Orbitz site, those flights I'd seen earlier, those highly desired direct flights where the taxes/fees were equal to the actual ticket charge, still showed up. When trying to choose them, an alert would pop up saying the fare had changed to $3500. In the span of a day or so.
As soon as I walked onstage and started the beat to "Leopardman" I was struck with a nagging headache. First time I can remember actually having to play through one. Not fun. As soon as we were done I abstained from load-out and instead finished the booking of flights, the proverbial thorn in my side.
Would be the first night I joined TVOTR for the encore percussion mayhem and with a set of sleighbells in each hand, I hardly hesitate to say that I rocked that shit.
We had booked a hotel on Priceline and we ended up at the Red Roof Inn. When Zack, Mick and I entered our room we were immediately struck with a smell that was equally overpowering parts of rotten fish and dried blood. Zack called the front desk to bitch and with no more double rooms in the building they gave us to singles. Zack, the proactive one, got his own room, you know, for the effort. Mick and I shared the other single and that merely smelled like an ashtray. Red Roof Inn…never again.
We got into Austin early with the express intent of getting some band photos with Zack. Sitek had some photog friends who were up to the challenge so between our time spent behind the stage at Stubb's and underneath a stylish bridge near a jogging path, I think we got some useable shots.
Free food from Stubb's kitchen was served amazingly quick, but with the listed prices (that I didn't have to pay) I thought my serving would be a little larger. Nevertheless, the brisket was outstanding and the mashed potatoes and mac'n'cheese were spot-on as well. It was all served with amazing quickness…I ordered, sent a text message, and by the time I was done with my text, my plate was in front of me. Now that's service.
Stubb's outdoor space is massive…the capacity is listed at 2200 and in that space is just looks like a never-ending sea of bodies. They were packed tight up front for our set and they did not disappoint. I hopped down into the middle of it all and banged on my tom for a bit and had fun doing it.
We had to leave almost immediately after our set, but not before Zack donned a gingerbread man costume and surprised the TVOTR dudes during "Golden Age", the costumed, dancing equivalent of John McCain, unable to lift his arms over his chest. It had me wondering…if I was at the show, didn't know any better, and saw someone in a gingerbread costume hop on stage and start dancing, would I think it was funny?
My honest answer is, I think it would be even MORE funny if I was not expecting it.
We hit a rest stop outside of Austin with a Subway in side. The sandwich artist has zombie make-up on and his nametag reads "Vampire" and solely because of his enthusiasm in character, was able to convince to get a 12" (instead of a 6") and to switch from my standard Italian BMT to the cheaper, healthier, less-hammy Spicy Italian. I wish there was a tip jar, because I would've gladly dropped a $20 in for that kid.
We drove five hours after the show and when we picked an exit with hotels we stopped at four before we finally found one with vacancy. The Best Western never disappoints. I stayed up so I could catch the early end of breakfast. I walked down in my standard breakfast uniform (zipper boots, no socks, soccer shorts, t-shirt) and walked into a room full of manly men. Ugh.
I was figuring someone would call me "faggot" and had no proper response prepared. While I was waiting for my succulent waffle to finish cooking, I realized there were no empty tables. I'd have to sit with one of these dudes. Ugh.
The dude I ended up across from started the conversation "You from Houston?" (I was wearing my Gamblers t-shirt) and I proceeded to find out he was traveling too. Not a trucker, but one who travels to work in refineries. He was away from his wife and kids but the money was too good to pass up. He explained to me the intricacies of it all and I was fascinated. One of the other fellas on his crew spoke up too. Was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, came to Texas, found work in refineries and in three years, bought a house, paid off his truck, bought a Lexus and a Harley. He said "I thought it was the biggest secret in the world how much they pay people!"
They were genuinely genial and it was a proper joy talking to them and I felt like an idiot thinking they were going to make fun of me. It's random moments meeting people who totally destroy your expectations that brighten the day.