Sunday, March 30, 2008

Australia Part Seven: Who's really counting?

Back to Melbourne for our final Aussie show. Checked into hotel and then almost immediately went to the Tote to check out the UV Rays, one of our promoter Daniel's many bands. The UV Rays are his garage band (as oppose to his Deep Wound-style hardcore band) and were quite enjoyable, the highlight being a song called "I Wanna Be Your Lego Man" with lyrics that wisely don't stray too far away from the title.

There was free BBQ in the courtyard of the Tote and I think we all munched on some of that…shit was good. But we then quickly had to head over to the Evelyn to soundcheck for our show. I would have the same kit I used at the East Brunswick (satin flame toms, wine red kick drum) and Pat would use a 1960's blue sparkle Pearl kit.

We'd toyed with the idea of doing a bunch of songs we had yet to pull out in Australia, wrote down a rudimentary list and even tried to tackle a few at soundcheck. First was "Born in a Haunted Barn" and it sounded like an abortion in a possessed garden shed. Next was "Indivisible" where I wished I was invisible. Then on to "Little Miss Chocolate Syrup" which was more like a steaming pile of shit. I plead for us to do a tune we actually knew and "Earthquake Heart" sounded great. So we figured we wouldn't do ALL weirdo rare songs, but sprinkle them throughout the set as we saw fit.

After check I walked down the street to Mario's where I had dinner with some record-collecting friends. For some reason there was a big to-do about me asking for something with Alfredo sauce and what I got was actually more along the lines of a pesto based thing. It was edible nonetheless.

Then quickly back over to the Tote to catch Jay Reatard's set, already in progress. His jam is sweet, he's the real deal and I can understand why people are freaking out over it. I missed the first song or two, but still thought he was on.

I'd felt a little scummy before when I realized I hadn't taken a shower since the morning after our previous Melbourne show. I don't think I'd even changed clothes at that point either. But I was delighted to see that Jay and his merry band of miscreants were in the exact same position, all wearing the same clothes I'd last seen them in. Kinda made me love them even more.

From there we scooted back to the Evelyn where I missed the opening band. Talked to a circus performer (nails in the nasal cavity) who delighted in telling me about the joys of learning such a trick, especially the membrane that needs to be punctured, or as they so eloquently put it, "breaking the nose hymen." Yeesh.

Jay's set at the Evelyn was the most perfect I have ever seen him. The crowd was boisterous and reacting in all the right ways. I somehow got dragged into the scrum of pushing and shoving and yelling in front of the stage and even in my old age I had a blast doing so. I ended up with a shoe (not mine) in my hand and threw it onstage as it just seemed like the right thing to do. It hung precariously on the bass drum for the duration of the set. By the time he coasted into "I Know a Place" I was enveloped in pure bliss. When Jay nasally intones "We both get what we asked for" it's the world to me. I know nothing else and instead surrender myself to his precision and poignancy.

The songs didn't feel right. Pat had a monitor right next to him that apparently wasn't set as it was during check. We made the best of it and still enjoyed ourselves, even taking some requests at one point. As we ended, Troy unknowingly grabbed a beer Pat had been saving for the end of the set (don't get him started about beer always mysteriously being gone after we're done playing) and Pat just seemed infinitely frustrated.

So when we finished our encore (or was it second encore) Pat up and pushes his kit over. It seemed uncharacteristic, but I could at least tell where he was coming from. But he didn't stop and then grabbed the rack tom with both hands and wound up with a mountain of force before merely releasing it as opposed to slamming it down. The whole time I thought to myself "What in the fuck is he doing?"

So we all walked offstage and Jay relishes in telling us "Best Dirtbombs show yet" while Bruce Milne pops backstage to ask "Was Pat mad about something?"

Later in the week Pat would feel the repercussions of his actions as the owner of the drum kit became mighty pissed and rightfully so. I guess some of the shells had cracks in them and being a Pearl kit from the 60's it becomes somewhat difficult to just repair. Pat was sweating it but at this point I think a fair agreement has been reached as far as reparations.

We hung around the club for ages and I had lots of time to talk to Jay about good ole bullshit, about trying to tour together, shows we'd already played together (we did gigs with the Lost Sounds as far back as 2001) and just general rock and roll spectacular vernacular. Jay's a good man and we hugged goodbye as we headed back to our hotel and he set out for some more devilish delights I'm sure.

Early morning lobby call and Jay actually rides to the airport with us, all our gear and luggage, shoehorned into this minivan without an inch to spare. In hindsight, it's still kinda funny. And Jay had some amazing one-liners on the drive too…"I should get to South By Southwest just in time for Urban Outfitters to be marketing my nutsack" as well as, in regards to his online detractors "they can fucking blog on my log."

Check in was fine and goodbye to Daniel and Johanna was bittersweet. Was glad we met them and had such a great time, both socially and just as a touring band, but was sad to leave them so soon. This is the bummer part of touring…constantly having to say goodbye.

Once through security check point I heard familiar sounds emanating from the Billabong surf shop. The wispy rumble of the Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction" was pumping out their speakers so I walked inside, situated myself underneath one and wore a shit-eating grin while I thought deep about Lester Bangs.

As we were boarding our flight Jay and Co. entered the terminal and we blew them kisses goodbye.

Land in Auckland, picked up from the airport by the ever lovable John Baker and proceed straight to the club. I'd only been emailed a tour itinerary the day before and even then wasn't able to open it on my computer. I wasn't even sure if we were supposed to play that day.

But we were and we did. It was on a stage erected in the outdoor area of the King's Arms and featured the Bellrays and the Datsuns. The existence of an immovable drum riser proved fairly daunting while surveying how to plot the Dirtbombs stage set-up (possibly because I'd just hopped off a plane) and we decided to tighten it up and all play in front of the riser.

The Bellrays were first and apparently it was their first show with their new bass player. I couldn't tell as he seemed on the ball. My particular jam was "Pinball City" and it made me realize we'd both done songs for singles included in Multiball magazine. Nice.

We set up with copious amounts of help from the Datsuns' loving stage crew and proceeded to bang out our pared down set without giving it much thought. I wouldn't say we were on autopilot, more like we knew we had a shorter set time than we'd become used to and ably eliminated any dead weight. All killer, no filler. It seemed to go over well.

The Datsuns were bombastic in the face of worrying about the show being shut down for noise violations. I was glad when I liked their new songs like "Your Bones" as new songs for a band you've liked for some time can sometimes prove problematic. Nevertheless, the old favorites slayed as they always have. I just checked the tracklist of their debut album and can confidently say that record is 70% hits. Not 70% good songs, no, 70% bona-fide rock and roll hits. I'm still struggling to find an album from the modern era with a better batting average.

After the show we ate late night kebabs as I'd finally overcome the fear instilled in me in Perth. Slept a languorous sleep and relished in what would be our second and final day off on this OZ/NZ tour.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Australia Part Six: Golden Plains and Growing Pains...

Early next morning we board our flight to Sydney. I suddenly remember a story relayed to me about this year's Big Day Out.

Apparently Rage Against the Machine were highly demanding in many aspects of the festival. The least of which was their stage entrance. Apparently all corridors/hallways were to be darkened and no one from any of the other dozen or so bands was to be present as the band made their way to the stage.

So one night, one of the dudes from the Arcade Fire makes himself known in the no-go zone and screams "FUCK YOU I WON'T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!"

As a Rage fan and a bullshit-caller on Arcade Fire, even I have to admit the genius of it all.

From Sydney Airport we went straight to the club and began cracking on soundcheck. I once again used Kit's (from Rocket Science) drum kit and I liked it.

After check I was picked up by record collector extraordinaire Mark Taylor and whisked away to his sound bunker to peruse his piles of awesomely rare American garage 7"s. If you've never been, do check out his G45 legends website and understand that Mr. Taylor has an unnervingly high percentage of these monsters.

I particularly dug listening to shit like Cirkit, Randy Alvey and the Green Fuz, the Botumless Pit/Suedes, Chosen Few of St. Michaels, Gregg Barr and the Bar Association, the Classics on Amway (quite possibly the most inept guitar solo ever) not to mention just the ability to view all these killers in one sitting, one after another. It was wholly unreal.

Mark is incredibly easy-going and his willingness to open his collection to a youngster like me in spite of the subsequent drool was much-appreciated. Plus, the view of the Sydney skyline, the Opera House, the Harbor Bridge and even a fireworks display while listening to it all was the perfect visual accompaniment to my ideal audio evening.

As we were leaving the Taylor compound, I struck up conversation about one of Mark's old bands…the Psycho Surgeons. He immediately went back inside to grab me an original, pigs blood spattered copy of their lone single "Horizontal Action" b/w "Wild Weekend." I was left speechless.

I caught a little bit of Rocket Science and deemed it better than their performance earlier in the week in Geelong. Backstage at the Oxford Arts Center was tiny to begin with, so coupled with the fact that heaps of people were trying to get back there as their secret spot to smoke (as it was forbidden everywhere else in the club) and it soon just became annoying.

Cut to a knock on the backstage door. Mick opens it to reveal a fairly stunning young woman.

Mick: Can I help you?

Fairly Stunning Young Woman: Yeah, I know so-and-so and whats-his-nuts and was just gonna come back here and…

Mick: Well that is all nice and fine, But "WE", as a band, do not know "YOU" and there's no reason for you to be back here. I say good day to you.

I think we were all a little dumfounded at the grace with which Mickey dealt with the situation. And then someone started singing "No Head, No Backstage Pass."

Set was probably fine as I don't remember anything distinguishingly good or bad about it. Talked with Russell Hopkinson (You Am I, Radio Birdman) after the show. Rusty's a good guy…I think he was the main force behind bringing the Dbombs down to Australia to open for You Am I back in 2002.

It was a pretty hilarious situation back then…the promoter sent us the initial proposed budget that only had us losing a couple thousand dollars. We replied with "Thanks, but we don't have any money to lose" figuring that was that.

The guys from You Am I (who are multi-platinum artists in Australia and generally considered a cultural institution) wanted us on the tour so bad that they pulled all kinds of tricks to make it work. I think Russell pulled an old drum kit of his out of storage so we could avoid the fees of having to rent one, we had full access to their road crew/stage hands, I think/assume they paid us more per show than we'd originally been promised and they even swung it for us to play some extra headlining shows of our own. Good ole' Bruce Milne licensed Ultraglide in Black at that time for his Giant Claw label and contributed $2500 to the cause as well.

Basically, if it wasn't for the extreme good will set forth by those guys almost five years ago, I don't think we'd be in the respectable spot that we find ourselves in today as far as touring in Australia. So many thanks are due to them.

After chatting, I slipped out the backstage door and begun a two-hour quest to try and find Harry's Café de Wheels. I already wrote 2100+ words on this that there's no real reason for you to read here. Needless to say, I walked all over the town and showed up 20 minutes too late for a tiger pie, then spent another hour trying to find our hotel. If you seriously need the full account, email me and maybe I'll send it to you.

Wake up at the crack of nutsack to fly to Avalon Airport, somewhere between Geelong and Melbourne. I bought a copy of the Kills' Midnight Boom at the Virgin Music Store in the airport. That kinda made me happy. Just remembered while waiting for one of our numerous flights out of the Melbourne Airport that tour manager Johanna walked up with a flat of Krispy Kremes and was offering them to band members. All you aspiring TM's take note…it is ALWAYS in your best interest to buy the sweets when it's early in the morning and the band is groggy and too stupid to go and get their own food. This will endear you to them for life. You can do no wrong afterwards.

At Avalon Airport Ko's pedal bag doesn't show up. Just great. The one truly important day of the tour, that of the Golden Plains Festival, and NOW is the time after eight internal Australian flights that we lose our first piece of luggage.

This little baggage blunder put a quick damper on things. The good thing was we had time on our side…it was still before noon when we arrived in town and we didn't need to be at the festival until 9ish. On the phone the airline said they'd located the bag and that it would be sent on the next flight and then couriered over and should be back in Ko's hands no later than 2pm. That provided some initial relief and when it actually DID show up at the aforementioned time we all rejoiced in the aversion of potential crisis.

We stayed in Geelong at the Hotel Carlton. It's Art Deco styling was truly hip in the "Skip Tracer" kind of way, but there was also something a tad bit forgotten about it all. Like it hadn't been updated or renovated in quite some time. Like twenty years. The boys shared a two-bedroom suite and the other fellas konked out while I abused the free internet to follow the general asshattery of Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

We met later in the restaurant downstairs for a relaxing meal. We sat tucked away in a comfortable booth that felt Persian and/or Arabian in its luxury and overflowing amount of pillows. We ordered appetizers, Johanna sung one of the best song parodies in recent memory (to the tune of "Hotel California"), everyone shared from everyone else's plate, I had duck in a red wine ragu sauce, dessert was a rich fruity cheesecake and afterwards I literally laid down in the lavish booth and fell asleep.

I continued my slumber upstairs until it was time to make the trek to the bush for the Golden Plains Festival. We left the Carlton just before dusk, which gave us a beautiful setting for the drive out to Meredith and the supernatural amphitheater. The road there was rural in the purest sense, two lanes of black top in the middle of absolute nothingness. There seemed to be a palpable anxiety among the band, but only in the most positive of ways. The feeling on that drive out to Golden Plains will probably be my most enduring memory of the entire day.

The Vines were onstage when we arrived in the band area…doing their version of Outkast's "Miss Jackson" which was a radio staple when we first visited these shores back in 2002. The festival itself is a definite hit…we were told many people buy tickets before the band line-up is even announced, that it just has that sort of reputation and the ever-present "vibe" which accounts for so much of that intangible.

Plus, with only one stage, you're guaranteed to have all eyes fixed on you while performing and so worries about playing opposite the one-time only reunion of Jesus Christ and His Twelve Man Band are quickly put to rest. At a sizable 9000 paid attendees, it would be the largest crowd us Dirtbombs would ever play in front of at this point in our career.

I went side-stage to check out some Vines action. I still say their jam "Hot Leather" is the best thing they've ever done. But overall, the guys in that band just look like clueless idiots. I recognized "Get Free" and "Fuck the World" and thought they were stiff at best. And yet the crowd ate it up.

After them was the Bamboos, a sub-sub Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings unintended parody with a male bass player who had a ponytail. Subsequent criticisms become impossible when the heart of your band commits such a cardinal follicular sin.

Backstage we had an old-fashioned sleeper trailer for our personal space. There was a communal area styled with couches and recliners before a TV airing a stationary one-camera shot of the stage.

Some dazed girl got backstage, apparently looking for some celebrity encounter. Instead, she walks up to Pantano (who may or may not have hugged her thinking she was someone we knew) and says "Are you from something?" The band now has it's go-to catchphrase for the next year, thank you very much.

Festival stage prep always feels like a big accomplishment…something like 20 guys working together to try and set up all this equipment within an overly reasonable allotment of time. It reminds me of those awesome "prep" scenes from the movies of my youth…

You know, there's a memorable or possibly even "hit" song playing over a montage of "getting some work done" scenes, almost never including any dialogue, and almost always including a shot of someone accidentally getting a paint roller dragged across their face for comedic effect.

The big examples coming to mind are from Summer School where those brain-dead losers prep for their English competency exam under Erasure's "Chains of Love"; or in Ernest Goes to Camp where his cabin full of juvenile delinquents/future rapists assemble an arsenal to rival a medium-sized Middle Eastern nation in order to battle those evil land-stealing Kramer Construction corporate slobs to keep that one Indian dude from shedding any more tears. Or my favorite, in Lost Boys where The Corey's sharpen wooden stakes, make overindulgent necklaces of garlic cloves and prepare for Armageddon with Kiefer Sutherland and his band of homosexual vampires. I'm sure there was one of these in each and every Home Alone abomination committed to screen, but Chris Columbus can go fuck himself after ruining the peace and tranquility the Native Americans had here in the New World.

Anygay, we set up our shit alright and quick. The drums I had were tight, proper high-quality rentals from Billy Hyde (Aussie gear hire service) probably black Yamaha's or something equally as snooty. We opened with "Leopardman" and it felt like the first time we'd actually nailed that beginning…where after looping the toms endless while the stringed instruments get in line and Mick counts to three and we all simultaneously unleash a momentous aural discharge of sonic roar. This feels "SOOO" good every night…like our announcement saying "We are Here" where "Here" is up in your shit.

We flowed well but by "They Have Us Surrounded" the crack in my 20" Paiste 502 ride cymbal had finally caught up to me. The crack had compromised the properties one expects from a cymbal. Where it should rest on the stand and resemble the appearance of a bottom-side up plate, what I had to deal with resembled a proper concave bowl with all the resonant qualities of a turd hitting the porcelain.

I undid the nut on the cymbal stand, removed my newfound fruit bowl with both hands and proceeded to throw it down WITHALLTHEFUCKINGENERGYICOULDMUSTER. It felt good, but insufficient. So I did the same, again and again and again. I could hear the crowd perk up a bit. This is where having two drummers particularly comes in handy as Pants kept the beat while I monkeyed around. I ended the debacle by throwing the thing against the back of the stage and then summoned Johanna at stage right to stir up a rental cymbal and get a stagehand to plop it on my stand. Problem solved, good times.

I really, really, really wanted to end the set with "Need You Tonight" as we'd been doing pretty much every night. But Mick wouldn't do it…didn't think the crowd would dig it. So he called "I Heard Her Call My Name" instead and it felt like a lead balloon. The crowd was motionless. I'd bet my third testicle they'd have freaked over our sloppy disco-fied INXS cover…especially for the fact that most of the fans probably had no idea who we were, but clearly would've known (and loved) Hutchence and Co.

I ended with a headstand on the bass drum and some benign swinging of hardware, also (in my ears) to the delight of the audience. Walk offstage and have and uptight and surly stage hand bitch at me about throwing my cymbal. Apparently the back of the stage was by no means solid as I had thought. Rather, it was merely a curtain. He then went on to lecture me about how I could've hurt someone had they been walking on the ramp behind the stage. I earnestly apologized as if I'd known that I would have never sailed a metal Frisbee towards anyone's head, but he kept on acting like a little bitch, doing shit like purposefully bumping into me as I tried to walk past him. Johanna later said he yelled at her that I'd almost hit HIM with my cymbal.

Later in the week he'd complain to the rental company about the whole situation and somehow a bunch of previously undiscovered damage appeared on the drums I'd played that night. They tried to pull some shit on our promoters Daniel and Johanna like withholding a deposit or some shit, thinking that the drums were somehow connected to amplifiers we'd hired earlier in the tour that had just up and crapped out on us.

From what I was told, the owner of the Golden Plains Festival, who Johanna had repeatedly told us considers the Dirtbombs his favorite band, personally paid the company for any damages I may have incurred on the rental drum kit. I was flattered.

Chatted backstage with Davy Lane, the prettiest man in rock as dubbed by our publicists Lou and Adele. Can't remember if it was before or after we played…but he was playing with You Am I when we toured with them and his band the Pictures opened for us on our second Aussie sojourn. Recently he's done time backing Jimmy Barnes (Downunder legend for some inexplicable reason) and Crowded House. He's Australia's answer to Josh Klinghoffer and is one of only a few musicians to guest with the Dirtbombs onstage. He's a great guy and the Pictures are a must-hear if you've even the most passing interest in the Who.

From there it was solid chill time. Splayed out on the couch, "watching" Kid Koala's set, nursing a bottle of water and just letting the set dry. I was still kinda bummed about ending with "I Heard Her Call My Name" but Lou and Adele quelled those feelings by saying it was great. Did a photo shoot holding a sign that read "Lost Children" and had the owner of Golden Plains hop in for some portraits with us without properly being told who he was.

I eventually fell asleep on the couch and soon thereafter we sojourned back toward the Carlton to cap off a day well done. We stopped apropos of nothing or anywhere, climbed out of the minivan and stared up at the star-clustered heavens, the likes of which are unheard of in our neighborhood. It was all perfect.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Australia Part Five: Still Alive...

After Geelong we woke butt-ass early to fly to Brisbane. All our flights are butt-ass early, as if Australia operates on no other time schedule than that of butt-ass. But this is hardly a complaint. As I've explained before, these airports are all but completely empty when we arrive to check-in. We walk straight up to the counter, get our boarding passes, walk our shit over to oversize baggage check, get in the security check line, relish in the fact that we DON'T have to take off our shoes and spend mere minutes in the bullshit that can take upwards of HOURS at US airports.

Plus, and I hope I'm not getting anyone in trouble here, but there's been a few times on this trip where I haven't had to show ANY identification at all for anything at the airport. No ID necessary for a boarding pass. Not necessary to get through security. No one's asking for it to board the plane and you can be damn sure no one's asking for it at luggage claim either.

I mean, I guess it's cool until someone ruins it for everyone. Maybe by writing about it I just became the ruiner.

Brisbane was the first city the band ever came to in Australia. Like our first visit, we went back to 4ZZZ radio where Mick, Pat and Troy did an on-air interview with a guy who seemed barely knowledgeable about the band. I've taken any opportunity I've had lately to AVOID group interviews. It's tiring with everyone tripping over each other's words, awkward silences merely more awkward, nervous laughs abounding…give me a one-on-one interview any day where I can let my unbridled wit fly free.

From DIY community radio to downtown rock club. Upon entering the club the owner asked Troy "Are you a metal band?" to which Troy said "No" and the owner replied "Then have a good show," as if to suggest he would not wish a good show upon a metal band. And really, why should he?

Soundcheck's become whatever but I still feel the need to mention them so that it's known they happened. We ate dinner at some styling hipster restaurant with a tiki bar in the basement, tons of cool art for sale on the walls (one piece titled "Gay Robot Parade") and a cabinet full of old toys from the 70's and 80's that were available for purchase.

I ordered a Hawaiian pizza size large at 36 centimeters diameter. Not terribly proficient at the metric system, I polled the table as to how big this would actually be. Consensus was it would be a respectable 12 inches, where in actuality it was 14.173228 inches. You can imagine my dismay at the extra inches I would not be able to consume and would ultimately be left in our Brisby hotel room, hopeful the people cleaning the room would not judge me for my incremental inaccuracies.

I think we missed some of the opening bands and I surely slept through others. The drums I played were wrapped in some schwank zebra-print fur. I'd always wanted to upholster a drum kit but ultimately proved too lazy to even change the heads on them.

Onstage was hot as shit, all of us sweating balls. I think this would be the night developed a wicked blister/callus on my left middle finger that actually started bleeding in a way that resembled varicose veins. Crowd was lively and dancing. We did a particularly spirited opening to "Candyass" and for some forgotten reason pulled out "Kung Fu" for what felt like the first time in eternity.

From the 'bane we flew to Hobart. Tasmania. Home of the devils. Australia's pubic region. I'd spent a couple days there with the Stripes in 2006 and was curious to see what a trip that doesn't include international rock stars was like.

The club (the Brisbane Hotel) was cool by me. They even had boarding rooms for us to stay in upstairs, European-style. Mick, Pat and I shared a room. I got the top bunk, Mick the lower, and Pat the stand-alone bed.

Before soundcheck we cruised Elizabeth Street and popped into Tommygun Records. It would be the first place any of us saw a proper vinyl copy of We Have You Surrounded…truly a momentous occasion. And it happened in Tassie. The owner had us autograph one for him and he gave me an old issue of MOJO for free. I was stoked.

Checked out some other cool stores on the same street…antique places, instrument stores (with a guitar made in South Africa in the 40's that caught my eye) and a vintage clothing store. Hate to say that I actually purchased nothing and therefore failed to contribute to the economy of Tasmania.

After soundcheck was a hearty bar-cooked meal. Everyone in the band dug it. An army travels on its stomach and the choice cuisine in Australia may be the reason things have been going so well. Plus, I think the more meals shared by the entire touring party the better the band interaction. Also, based on tales from the ladies room at the club, we all agreed that when confronted with completely juvenile graffiti, the best combat is adding an equally unbelievable name of attribution. It would look something like this:

"Ang's vagina tastes like candy"
-David Byrne

Pat and Mick went to go do a radio interview from there while I went to the dorm room and read. There was a radio on somewhere and I was able to listen to the whole thing unintelligible. I mean, I could tell when Pat was talking and I could tell when Mick was talking and possibly even make out a word or two per sentence, but I was ultimately left feeling like a stranger in a strange land.

I would sleep through all the opening bands and bummingly so as I really wanted to check out the Reactions who'd also opened for the White Stripes in Hobart. Instead I went from slumber to stage and we rocked well. We ended the main set with "Theme from the Dirtbombs" and Mick was successful in bringing the crowd onstage to dance. We were all surprised when a particularly excitable young lady removed her shirt and began to dance around in her brassiere. This would be the first time a woman would ever dance around onstage in her bra at a Dirtbombs show.

We had finally made it.

After a late night excursion for some gas station food, I stayed up even later to write. The bar was still open and pouring downstairs and while music was booming it was all fairly benign. After shutting the PowerBook G4 and waiting for my rendezvous with Mr Sandman I was struck with an uncool moment of shit. As I lay there, hoping to be whisked away to dreamland, I heard an all-too-familiar sound.

It was the beginning of the Dirtbombs live show.

The sound man had run a room mic and before we'd gone to bed even handed the band a copy of the night's show. Apparently that wasn't the only copy he'd made as the rumbling tom intro to "Leopardman at C&A" was soon taunting my quest for shut-eye.

Without pause I immediately blurted out "Aw, hell naw!" to which no one replied. Mick and Pat were asleep. Everyone else in the other room was already out as well. I would be the only witness to this moment of Fellini-esque absurdity.

Next day in Melbourne, checking out the public market and came not as close as I'd have liked to buying one of those electric green Borat mankini's. Apparently John Mayer beat me to it. Went back to Missing Link for the third time, bought some CD's on sale and a Nick Drake bio I'd been wanting since I'd visited his grave in 2006.

Also, asking for an Xacto knife in Australia at office supply stores is met with awesomely uninformed stares. You've got to go to an arts supply store to find that shit…just in case you were wondering.

At the East Brunswick Club we finally got to catch up with Jay Reatard and his band. It's always refreshing to meet up with Americans, especially those in the same touring situation, just to trade stories…about flights, food, rental gear, soundmen, and Jay's pointed opinion on just about anything always proves for a fun conversation.

There was some cameraman following Jay around for a documentary that Other Music is working on and the dude was totally clueless. He provided for a few good laughs, asking people what their tattoos meant, not knowing which band member was Jay and generally acting annoying to the nth degree.

My drums on this eve would be a wine Red Mapex bass drum with orange satin flame rack and floor toms. Delightful.

We soundchecked and ate a tasty meal. First band the Ooga Boogas were rock-on. While it was hard to pinpoint exactly what the sound was/was coming from, it was solid, well-done rock and roll that has still yet to bore me.

Reatard's set was blistering. While the mix was off at the start (with completely inaudible drums) things were rectified pretty quickly and the band was in-step with each other. While all eyes in the sold-out crowd were on Jay, I don't know if they necessarily connected as much as they should've. Jay pinned it on the "I read about this guy in Vice some I'm gonna go see him without really knowing what he's all about" scene. Still never seen the guy put on a wack show and even though they didn't play "I Know a Place" I was still very into it.

Our jam was tight. Everything felt in its proper place in the set. I'm growing more comfortable with the length of time in between songs and the crowd there was definitely ours to be had. Other than one song in the encore that Troy tried to transpose on the fly after breaking a string, I think the show was pretty damn near flawless in my mind. The INXS jam went off like gangbusters and we even pulled out "Politicians in My Eyes" to which our promoter Daniel legitimately lost his marbles for.

Seemed like it took forever to get out of the club…Jay and band were acting in the fucked-up, debauched manner which I've come accustomed to from them and it's actually charming in a way. I bought a stack of Jay's tour single (some even with a limited to 50 copies sleeve) to give away to collector friends back home and after ages of sitting around and sloooooooowly packing up and loading out, we made back to the hotel for some much needed rest.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Australia Part Four: What For?

Adelaide hotel was situated near some local cancer treatment center. End result is the other lodging occupants were a weird and scary crowd of folks who appeared to live there. At the hotel. And we were there for less than 18 hours. As if traipsing across their metaphorical lawn to just to get a peak before hopping away in scared glee.

There was the guy with no nose. And the lady who sat at her little outdoor table smoking cigarettes and drinking champagne for at LEAST seven straight hours…alone. And the swimming pool that was tempting, but ultimately too small (and vaguely inappropriate to enter) with other people already frolicking giving me the evil eye.

So despite the sunshiney goodness the Lord had bestowed, I stayed in and watched a shitload of cricket. Hours worth. What a brilliant way to kill a Sunday afternoon.

Had mom back home call the phone company to unlock the cell phone so now $1.20 a minute phone calls are all for the taking. Most memorable part about the club was their fruity gay mixed drinks named after rock stars. I had the Slick Rick (tasted like lemonade) while Mick had the Herbie Hancock, Ko the Frank Zappa, Troy the Debbie Harry and Pantano the Iggy Pop. I spilled half of mine on my leg. It was awesome.

Ate splendid Asian cuisine with the entire band before the show. I like a band meal. It becomes a great time to share stories with our local hosts, promoters, etc and more often than not the grub is worthwhile. Asian food in Australia is pretty solid too and I think we were all glad with the gourmet.

I slept during the opening bands. Used a chrome-finish Pearl Export kit. Can't remember much else…shows seem to blur together more and more lately.

Back to the hotel, early-ass lobby call (it was still dark out) and back to Melbourne. Day off would check us in to a comfy Comfort Inn that reminded me of Melrose Place even though I have never seen an episode of that show.

Promoters Daniel and James would take me around for the intense record shopping on this day. First stop was Licorice Pie. Great vinyl selection. Two copies of the Kelley Stoltz Aussie tour 7" still available for $10 a pop. I bought a Los Huevos 7" (thinking I could find someone who really needs it), a Magnitude 3 single (because it's on Goner) and a single by Yeah Yeah Noh. Wary of its origin, I passed on the Grateful Dead single on Scorpio at $50. While the idea of flipping it for another couple hundred bucks if it were the real deal was appealing, the thought of being stuck with a shitty Grateful Dead single that's not even original was far too hard to stomach.

From there on to Vicious Sloth. What an establishment! Catering to the intense collectorate, they had quite the impressive selection of hard-to-find Aussie stuff and were quick to play anything I cared to hear. Contemplated records by Razar, Bodhan X, Tch-Tch-Tch (usually written as three arrows all pointing different directions and probably the first band to implement such a premise a good 20 years before !!! was known as Chik-Chik-Chik) but in the end settled on an Aussie Dusty Springfield pic sleeve for "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" coupled with CD's of the Coloured Balls Ball Power and the Aussie post-punk comp Can't Stop It Part II. These were kinda sympathy buys as I spent a lot of time in the store and it would have been in bad form to not leave with just a little something.

Conversation at Vicious Sloth was fun and engaging, but with record collector types it always seems like you've got to draw them out a bit, make them feel a bit comfortable. So instead of just blurting out "What's the rarest record you have?" you kinda dance around the topic, ask what they collect, sniff their butt a bit, drop a few hints, see where they're coming from before you really get into the thick of it.

So I dropped references to my Keggs single, he shot back with his Sex Pistols on A&M, we geeked on the Stooges, I told them the story of the Death recordings and I think we'd finally reached parity when he pulled his copy of the Brain Police LP complete with original mailer and insert. Good times.

With a substantial collection of Beatles stuff I had to inquire about an item high atop my wantlist at the moment: Communism, Hypnotism and the Beatles by David Noebel is a classic Bible Belt tract from the late 60's espousing the evils of that Liverpool band that wouldn't shut up about "love." Bangs mentions it in one of the pieces included in Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung and having actually looked through one I can say the shit is bananas. Will pay or trade handsomely for one.

From there had another classy Thai meal and then back to Missing Link. I picked up some good Japrock inspired by Julian Cope's recent book that I can't get enough of…shit like Les Razilles Denudes and the Flower Travellin' Band cd's. I got a handful of 7"s too…junk I'd mentioned in regards to my first trip there earlier in the week as well as a bootleg Green River 7" that I think was called Dude Party.

Back to the hotel for a hot minute before meeting up with the dudes from Rocket Science and just cold chilling with them. It was a relaxed vibe at a bar where they're regulars. It was nice catching up with conversations. We moved to a back room for a meal and I went adventurous and ordered the kangaroo.

Roo meat was fine…not as gamey as others had made it out to be, but coupled with some hearty potatoes and a spicy glaze accompaniment and it was delicious and worth the risk.

Slept like a rock that night as I was easily only operating on no more than an hour and a half sleep from Adelaide.

PBS radio session the next morn was perfunctory. We've done two of these before, so were familiar with the process and rigmarole. We tried to pick a nice cross-section of "hits" coupled with songs we'd usually not get the chance to play, so, we did "Ever Lovin Man", "La Fin du Monde", "Politicians in My Eyes", "Fire in the Western World" and "I Heard Her Call My Name" into a weird droney thing based on a drum beat from They Were Wrong, So We Drowned with Mick singing lines from "Phantoms in a Lesser-Crystalline Sphere."

From there we drove to Geelong. I know nothing of note about or from this town. After soundcheck we again had a brilliant band meal at an Asian place down the street from the club. Band meals have been coupled with lots of laughs and good vibes lately and that is irreplaceable quality time.

The toilet paper in the band bathroom was single sheets in a box. They needed to be grabbed one at a time and I'm not exaggerating when I say they had the consistency of wax paper. Interestingly enough, the TP actually performed its job quite well.

Opening band was the Frowning Clouds and while I can't stand that name, these little pubes knew how to bring it. They did a perfect recreation of Larry and the Blue Notes "Night of the Phantom" where the lead singer nailed that pseudo-snarl from the original while shaking his tambourine perfectly.

The boys were clearly indebted to Back from the Grave, even down to the singer's striped sweater, scarf (in the middle of summer) and what I'm imagining must've been beetle boots. Guitar player had a homemade Velvet Underground shirt on. Bass player and drummer both appeared like odd men out, just along for the ride, maybe not too into the whole "Sixties" thing, but moreso just into the idea of being in a band.

They rocked hard with a take on the Birds version of Bo Diddley's monster "You Don't Love Me (You Don't Care)" that they may or may not have known the tune was covered with saintly reverence by the Gories. And just like the Gories, the Frowning Clouds had two people in the band who could each blow a mean harmonica.

"You Don't Love Me" segued straight into a song I imagine is called "Jungle King". Totally ripping of Diddley's "Pretty Thing" with a perfect lyric "The city ain't my thing"

Overall, with their questionable tuning, 60's togs, adherence to the doctrine set forth by BFTG and clearly no fear in changing a few lyrics to a song and calling it their own, the Frowning Clouds remind me very much of the Gories.

Rocket Science were next and they were entertaining. It'd been 4 years since I'd last seen them live (and even guested on theremin for a song). The new stuff was alright, but I really got into the stuff I've known for awhile, songs they were playing while touring with us back in 2003. And when they jammed on "Copycat" with Hendrix-like fervor to end their set, it was bliss.

I played Kit's (from Rocket Science) kit metallic mango-colored Rogers drums with a huge bass drum and perfect rack tom. Would be the first show we opened with "Leopard Man at C&A" (my idea) and wouldn't you know the floor tom immediately begins to fall as soon as I start to pound out the beat. Luckily promoter Daniel was quick to the stage to remedy the situation.

I would end up with some mean blisters on my left hand from drumming that night. My ride cymbal started showing a crack during our first show and it's becoming more and more prominent every night. "Need You Tonight" keeps getting better reception from the crowds.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Australian Part Three: Perth...

In the morning make the flight from Melbourne to Perth. I eat lasagna from a sub-Sbarro type pizza joint and get a donut with bright yellow pineapple frosting on it.

Holy shit. Are there pineapple donuts in America? How come I'm just finding out about these now? I want to eat fifty more of these all at once and smear the saturated sucrose slop all over my face like war paint for carbohydrate combat.

While waiting at the gate the entire Australian cricket team walked right past us. I was somewhat dumfounded…I'm not one to usually care about such celebrity, but these were the guys I were watching on TV just the day before! How-fucking-badass! Someone later told me that the Aussie national team is easily the best cricket team in the world and I'm still impressed by that.

Flight was painless. Watched a bit of "Superbad" and am curious as to when the first time someone ever got a hand-job in cargo shorts. The movie perfectly captures those desperate teenage nights of yore. It feels lame and cliché to attach one's personal memories to a pop culture rendering of such, but I do not hesitate to say that "Superbad" feels like a long-mythologized high school night I'd lived.

I'd accidentally left my noise-canceling headphones on when I last used them so the batteries had been welched of their juice. When I clicked the switch to the "on" position, the noise-canceling technology turned into noise generating technology. I'm not kidding when I say that it sounded like a Wolf Eyes concert in my headphones. It was killer….way cooler than can really be conveyed here. And by putting pressure on different parts of the phones, tapping them, rotating them, I could vaguely affect/control the noise and get reactions from it. As far as I'm concerned, I now own the coolest pair of headphones in the world and as soon as I get home I'm running a line out from these suckers and putting out a lathe-cut cassette on Hanson Records.

Perth was bright and sunshiney when we arrived. Our local promoter Pex picked us up from the airport and shuttled us straight to the hotel. Once checked in, we had a couple hours to explore the town. Mick, Pat and I ventured to Dada Records first, where I bought an old issue of Mojo. We stopped for some ice cream, slowly snaked in and out of random shops lining the main downtown pedestrian mall and got to the store 78 Records about 30 seconds after closing time.

Seemed like most of the cool shit in town closed at 5pm on Saturday. I don't know why that is, nor do I agree with it, but it surely left us with not much else to do before lobby call at 6:30.

The club, the Amplifier Bar, was easy walking distance from the hotel, which was nice.
I contently hummed the Victims' songs to myself while making way down the Perthian streets. Hands down, my favorite punk band and ambling down their hometown avenues makes the tunes all the more present and real to me. The same thing with Franz Ferdinand while walking in Glasgow, Arctic Monkeys and Sheffield and the Ramones in New York.

Soundcheck was easy, I played a decent chrome finished kit. Afterwards, we stewed in the humid basement dressing room and wasted time. I would sleep through most of the opening act's set, only remembering the first band sounded like JSBX and ended with a cover of Dead Moon's "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight" and made me realize how killer it is to take a 19th century presidential campaign slogan and turn it into the chorus for a biker punk song in the 1990's. Fred Cole wins for life. All my love to anyone who can top him with something framed around "I like Ike."

I walked up the street to get a doner kebab. Big mistake. It would attack my insides right before we walked onstage, barely giving me enough time to make it to the bog. While a righteous delicacy I first enjoyed in Glasgow back in 2001, it may be time for Benny to turn in his kebab klub kard and start being a little more conscious about my tour food. I just don't have the patience to deal with feeling like shit on the road anymore.

We played what we consider our "old" set as we'd never played Perth before. So begin with "Start the Party" then "Get it While You Can" into "Underdog" followed by "Ode to a Black Man" and then slowly introducing stuff from the new album. Kick pedal I had was giving me shit within 30 seconds of "Start the Party". Ugh. Problems with random drum kits on tour never actually stem from the drums, it's actually always a problem of hardware. Luckily there was an extra kick pedal laying around so I swapped it out and things (for the most part) were alright from there.

Encore ended with me hanging the rack tom from the ceiling and yelling "Perth is a Culture Shock!" into the microphone a dozen times before a Chris Rock mic drop and a quick shuffle off the stage.

Immediately after our set the club really fills up as it's DJ dance club time. All sorts of young drunk fashion victims looking for a Saturday night triumph. The song selection is impeccable…Yeah Yeahs Yeahs, Beck, the Walkmen… and the kids are dancing like it's the end of the world. I wonder if such a peculiarity could happen in America?

Go back downstairs and fall asleep. Walk back to the hotel, watch Dirty Jobs, get an internet password, check email for the first time in a few days and stay up later than I should've.

6am lobby call and onward to the Perth airport to make our way to Adelaide. Walked directly to the ticketing counter with absolutely no line. Checked in with no hassle. Slid through security with the greatest of ease. Total time to get from curb to gate: approximately 8 minutes. Now THIS is what I'm talking about. I love me some Aussie airports. Overhear a vicious looking guy at pay phone placing a collect call…

"Yeah you fucking accept the charges, it'll take me six months to pay you back arsehole. Aw, don't give me any bullshit, I'll fucking kick you in the fucking face you fucking cunt. So are you going to pick me up from the airport or not? Fuck You."

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Everything Is Fine: Australia Part 2...

Slept well over the Pacific with REM's Automatic for the People on the iPod.
Watched Anton Corbjin's Control, the Ian Curtis biopic. The whole thing was pretty unmoving, but it delivered the Joy Division songs in a way/context that I'd never really been exposed to them and left me with a newfound appreciation. Usually I just hear the bass lines at soundcheck, independent of any of the other musical cues. So there was a lot of me going "So that's the bass line Troy's been playing this whole time"

Land at Auckland Airport, go straight back through security and kill time. Flight from Auckland to Melbourne was cake…I watched American Gangster and thought the whole thing was unimpressive. The story was vaguely compelling in the same way Blow had been before it, but the viewer is ultimately left unsympathetic towards Denzel Washington's portrayal of Frank Lucas and Russell Crowe as NYC's lone good cop is not the least bit charming of the kind of guy you'd find yourself rooting for. The film was a decent time killer at best, but I'm also left wondering how much artistic liberty was taken with the story.

Melbourne Airport was quick and easy. Passport control was a perfunctory rubber-stamping, baggage wasn't terribly slow to burp out onto the conveyor belt and customs felt no desire to rifle through any of our shit.

Our tour promoters Daniel and Johanna escorted us to the parking garage and had a Spinal Tap moment as they were unable to remember where they'd parked the rental van. It took 20 minutes or so before we finally crammed all seven of us and all of our luggage into what sizes up to be a regular minivan.

This would be the first time we failed to stay in the St. Kilda neighborhood while lodging in Melbourne. Instead, we're closer to downtown, near some museums, the zoo, the uni and lots of other bullshit within walking distance.

Once in the hotel room I begin the completely muddled Billy Childish novel Notebooks of a Naked Youth, a book I bought at Powell's in Portland back in 2001 and am just now making my first attempt at reading. For some reason I always feel bad about buying a book and not reading it immediately. It's part of a long running personal tradition I have of feeling bad for inanimate objects…like dropping a glass and then getting depressed that it will never hold my morning orange juice again.

I feel asleep reading Notebook and when I awoke I ventured out on my own into the wilds of Melbourne city. Walking through and exploring urban centers is one of my favorite things to do on tour…especially when alone, it's empty time for my thoughts to drift, to follow my own mental map of how the city is laid out, no schedule to keep, seeing a city on foot always exposes the smallest and most interesting peculiarities that truly reveal its character.

There were plenty of cool shops…a nice old antique store, an intriguing Japanese grocer complete with an entire aisle dedicated to ramen, a few pawn shoppes and most importantly, record stores. I'd found the old location of the Au-Go-Go record store, now housing a completely forgettable DJ place called In And Out. My record radar (a term I must give credit to Matt Smith for coining) was heightened and I eventually made my way over to Missing Link Records. While I'd visited there back in 2004, I had no clear memories of what specifically they stocked or whether I even bought anything.

This trip would be far different. I made my way immediately to the 7" section and I was duly impressed. While the selection was terribly huge, it was of impeccable quality. To see the Tyvek 2x7" or selections from the X! Records catalog a world away (not to mention Cass shit, as I'm still amazed any time I see it in a store) fills me with a warm feeling that certain things are right in the world. I told the people at the store and I will repeat is here: Missing Link has the best section of new 7"s in the world. Better than Rough Trade. Better than any of the Amoebas. Better than Rockit Scientist or Goner or Academy.

Spent time talking with Scotti Campbell, one of the brilliant staff at Missing Link. He's a big Dirtbombs fan from way back and hipped me to some stuff…pre-Victims Perth punk from the Geeks, the Venomous Concept 7" with sleeve made out of human skin, and a plethora of Coloured Balls CD reissues. I've made a conscious vow to myself to try and only buy records that I know will be hard to find anywhere but Australia and actually left the store without purchasing anything…but remembering fully that we'll be back on Monday with the entire day off.

Slowly back to the hotel to enjoy the cricket match between the Australian team and Sri Lanka. Cricket is such a relaxing, lazy and overall wonderful sport to watch. Our first trip over in 2002 found an entire day off spent watching a test match with tour manager Tim Carton fully explaining all the peculiar rules and strategies and lingo. It was a beautiful summer day, spent sipping Gatorade after Gatorade shirtless, preserved perfectly crystalline in my mind. So any chance to revisit the game is a welcome treat for me…a chance encounter this summer during a Sunday afternoon on Belle Isle, trying to explain to Malissa the rules of the game (still somewhat uncertain of them myself) and also in awe that there's somewhere in the Detroit area where people play cricket.

I explained the rules to Pantano, myself remembering more and more as we watched the match and he eventually admitted to having a grasp of them.

Johanna drove us to the Tote for soundcheck. The entire evening would be a constant stream of people I hadn't seen in years and some people I'd even forgot were in Melbourne. Mark from the Stabs (and Saucerlike Recordings) and Mikey from the Eddy Current Supression Ring (as well as an ace recording/pressing plant engineer) were both good for shop talk as far as the intricacies of pressing vinyl as well as just other general band/music shit.

Bruce Milne, Australian national tastemaker, owner of the Tote, Dirtbombs Australian record label head was there as well. Johanna had very accurately described him as one of the few genuinely honest and nice people in the music business. We immediately started talking record collecting nerd stories. The Dirtbombs are clearly a better band with people like Bruce and Larry Hardy of In the Red Records on our side. I feel lucky just to know those men.

The rider backstage was nice…chips and salsa, a variety of Gatorade flavors and a tray of cheeses/fruit/veggies/dip/gummi snacks that was much-appreeshed by everyone.

Backstage we found copies of our Aussie tour single (delivered by Mikey) with a scant three copies on colored vinyl. Guess which three band members scooped those up? Soundcheck was quick and painless, Troy had some issues with his bass amp that seemed to be resolved before we played. I was privileged to play a sweet old Ludwig black pearloid kit from the Sixties. Pat was bummed that I called "dibs" and that he was left with the generic black Pearl kit with power toms. But he got his precious taller hi-hat stand, so it worked out for both of us in the end.

After check we stuffed the singles in their sleeves, peeped the tour posters, Dirtbombs pins, t-shirts and watched as Kate (formerly of Au-Go-Go Records) styled us with a completely professional merch set-up.

Bruce took Mick and I upstairs to lay some current In-Fidelity releases. I'm quite excited about the new King Brothers record. He also showed me his Australian Astor pressing of the Stooges "1969" single, one which I ogled on our last visit into his sanctum four years ago.

We nixed the idea of going out for dinner and instead ordered in for some pizzas. Bruce then snuck up on me and handed me his copy of the Stooges single and said "You owe me something really cool for this" to which I momentarily shocked into disbelief. I promised him I would completely hook him up while not being able to believe my eyes.

It's hard to be a record collector, cognizant of pressing variations and release years and the rarity thereof, without coming off as overly materialistic. But I've been viewing the hobby as an extension of my historical passion of late. So while I know that the "1969" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" pressed by Astor has little-to-no difference from the US Elektra issue, it's the fact that such a fringe record by a totally unknown band was actually seen fit (by who I'd LOVE to know) to be manufactured by these Australian licensees in a year/era where someone like the Iggy Pop would most likely be deported from the Draconian commonwealth.

Basically, I'm sting there, holding this record, thinking "There no fucking reason in the world while this should have existed in 1969, let alone have survived all these years and no be sitting in my hands."

Plus, the Stooges are the greatest rock and roll band of all time.

The Stabs were violently loud, calling to mind mid-Nineties caterwaul like Cows. Guitar tone was sharp and piercing and played with all the deft charm of a psycho with a scalpel. It was also the first time I ever got to see them live, pretty weird since I put out a record of theirs a couple of years ago.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring was impressive from the little I watched, but must admit that I retired to the dressing room and fell victim to some much-needed sleep for most of their set.

Our set was strong considering we'd landed in town that day after 20+ hours of flying. We started the set with a couple of new songs and it kinda left me wanting more…"Start the Party" is such a perfect, dangerous opening song and when we don't start with it I feel like I'm not giving my all.

We encored twice and can't remember where we did the INXS covers, but they were clearly met with equal amounts of adoration and revulsion. A quote was relayed to me along the lines of "Why would you do that?" I think it's fucking hilarious. Dudes wrote solid, timeless songs, that's why.

Saw two guys trading punches in the bar later. Literally, trading. As in "Punch me in the gut as hard as you can and after I regain my composure it will then be my turn to punch you in the solarplexus my drunken bogan companion."

Back to the hotel to fall asleep reading pointless Billy Childish ramble that cruelly fails to reward the reader with the simple joy of chapter demarcations. Notebooks of a Naked Youth has become a grudge read now, merely trudging through the language so I can get the shit out of my perspective.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

2008 Australian Tour Fiasco Part One...

Flight from Detroit to Los Angeles:

First off, I was overjoyed to see that the usually shitty Motown Memories store that's been slightly above "eyesore" status in the McNamara Terminal has finally begun to carry The Complete Motown Singles boxsets. While my visit would only find the collection from 1969 available (and at an over-inflated $159.99 price tag), it was simply the idea that the compilation was there that I was pleased with.

Flight with window seat and I devour the Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair. Pound for pound (literally with the heft of this month's edition) my favorite magazine right now. No other publication has the insight, foresight, grace or overall sleek, stylized and refined completeness that Graydon Carter's mag seems to effortlessly spew forth with each subsequent issue.

Of particular interest to me was the in-depth piece on The Graduate. From it's beginnings as a book by a schizophrenic author who would later shun all material goods, to the troubles it had finding a studio home to the general uncertainty everyone except director Mike Nichols had about casting Dustin Hoffman as the confused Benjamin Braddock, the story told is nothing short of rapturous and alone is worth the price of purchase.

I think to some degree, every man fancies Mrs. Robinson (perfectly portrayed by the stunning Ann Bancroft) in The Graduate. Her detached sexual fever as unleashed upon the unwitting Braddock, coupled with her experience, her overall learned and wisened demeanor is something that every young man would be considered downright lucky to get a whiff of in real life.

From there I snapped on my new Sharper Image noise cancellation headphones and reveled in the relative serenity they provided to an otherwise unrelenting drone of airplane operations. Tapped into my iPod it was even more heavenly. I'm still learning the tricks and feel of the 8-gig little beast, but to be able to call up OOIOO's "UMO" without a second thought is truly one of the better joys in my life.

Does anyone here goof around with the EQ setting on their iPod? I've fiddled with a few and quite honestly, the only ones that sound remotely palatable are flat (read: nothing) and the treble booster. But maybe that's just me.

I then proceeded to devour Gillian Gaar's fairly rote entry in Continium's 33 1/3 series with her tale of Nirvana's In Utero. As a dedicated fan since "Smells Like Teen Spirit" first bounced across these pre-pubescent eardrums, it's hardly worth the 40 minutes it should take to read. Gaar's words have all the charm of a Mexican bowel movement and her source material is limited to fairly uninteresting quotes from Krist Noveselic and Earnie Bailey. I'll have to admit that anything out of Steve Albini's mouth seemed honest, frank and ultimately to the benefit of Gaar's otherwise sagging words.

I've not read any of the other 33 1/3 books, so I really have nothing to compare it to, but for someone like myself with such an unflinching, deep-rooted devotion to In Utero I would think I'd be easily won over. Instead, I'm left pointing any truly interested parties to Everett True's essential tome Nirvana: The True Story for all sorts of insight and tales you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.

After landing I made a quick trip to the In'N'Out Burger on Sepulveda to enjoy a hearty cheeseburger and fries while catching the last bits of Jonesy's Jukebox for the evening. I heard a new Be Your Own Pet song and it made me happy when other things made me sad.

Back on the plane and I indiscriminately devoured the latest issue of Radar. Another magazine where I read every last shred of text contained within regardless of my predetermined interest. Needless to say, I'm always impressed. Kudos on the revelatory story about the shady dealings behind the $1 billion empire of Forever 21, their blatant theft of certain designer frocks shocking, to say the least. The George Clooney article left me unimpressed though…just read like a whole lot of anonymous whiners complaining about nothing from a man who comes off as genuinely likeable.

I tapped into the Air New Zealand jukebox and was delighted to see a Datsuns collection featured. Featuring songs spanning all of the Datto's released interspersed with bits of interview, it was a welcome refresher course on the lethal qualities of this band's back catalog. The highlight though was a bit of conversation where the band discusses the few songs they've covered in their career…"Hello Ladies and Gentlemen" and "Good Night Ladies and Gentlemen" by Cheap Trick, a song I can't remember by Fun Things, and then "Where Eagles Dare" by the Misfits. The sure as shit, cue the lo-fi fuzz rumble that erupts into the explosive "I ain't no goddamn son of a bitch!"

To be able to hear this, unedited, unretouched, on the Air New Zealand musical selection computer jukebox, was quite possible the best moment of the 12 hour flight.

I then jumped over to a similarly formatted program featuring the Checks. The Dirtbombs first Auckland performance was opened by these New Zealand tykes and I was readily impressed with their frenetic teenage attack. Surely they were the next big thing. While they'd been feted by the NME, they've been virtually non-existent on US shores and with access to their debut full-length Hunting Whales I could see why.

The album abounds with ill-chosen tempos, ultimately defeating the energy one would imagine a bunch of kids in their early twenties should be brimming with. Instead, most songs have that same, slow, middle-of-the-road plod that sounds like a modern Rolling Stones throwaway without the benefit of being played by the same dudes who wrote "Satisfaction". Earlier in the week I'd mentioned in an interview with New Zealand press how I looked forward to buying a copy of the Checks records. Consider these Checks cancelled with insufficient funds in the "rock" department.

My first movie choice was The Bourne Ultimatum. While I'd initially hoped on seeing it in the theater, this is the perfect kind of movie to see on a twelve-hour flight. It never failed to lose my attention and Matt Damon is all kinds of badass. Add to the fact that it's the only trilogy in recent memory that I've seen each volume of (other than the Oceans 11 pictures) and what you get is a highly-recommended action thriller jam.

I followed that with Takk by Sigur Ros. I'd lost touch with them after the ( ) album, but still treasure my vinyl copy of Agaetis Byrjum purchased solely on David Fricke's Rolling Stone Review from 2000.

I was expecting Takk to be a total downer. But with the opening chimes of the title track I was paralyzed with the overall confusion of how such music is even created. It seems so distant and foreign from what I know, from what is familiar. String sections and cascading swoops of atmospheric vibes are plentiful and, as far as I can tell, truly difficult music to create.

When a friend recommends an album (or is even just a fan of it), there seems to be an unspoken hope on my part to really like the record. Knowing that going into Takk, the feeling of the record is not an upper or a downer…it feels like change. Maybe not for the better and maybe not for worse, but Takk feels like a record to signal a new path. It feels like a separation, an energy informed by an unspeakable distance, maybe geographical, maybe generational, maybe situational, but entirely clear and known and an ever-present issue.

The separation I feel on Takk is imbued with a sense of possibility. That things are rife for change, open for the taking, ready to be confronted. Opportunities need to be seized and turned into the ideal. Don't let yourself be weighed down, Grab hold and make the shit you want to happen happen. And if you need to cry, that's ok, because tears are usually the harbinger of truth, people want you to feel good because they care about you, not because that's what they're supposed to say. No matter how perfect or cinematic something may seem or feel at the time, it will always still be awkward and sad.

It's 4:03am Detroit time and I'm sitting here typing on a laptop thousands of feet over the Pacific Ocean and we're nowhere even near the halfway point of this flight.