Tuesday, July 29, 2008

West Coast Finale: Shit...Poetry?

We hit torrential downpour in the middle of Kansas (there is no other part of this state…yer either East Colorado, West Missouri or Middle of Kansas) and the sprint Mick, Ko and I made from our parking spot to shelter, a ten-second dash at most, left us completely drenched.

Lawrence, Kansas feels a necessary evil. Our shows, while never bank-breakers, seem to do alright sales. Plus, there's not much else to do between Denver and the rest of civilization. Upstairs at the Bottlenekk somehow manages to year-after-year retain the smell of every possible offensive bodily odor slapping you in the face in rapid succession, one after another. I escape across the street and buy the book I Was Told There Would Be Cake based on the title, the fact it's non-fiction personal account and that the author penned the cover story for the worst-ever selling issue of Maxim magazine.

The gig was nothing spectacular on our end, but quite some time ago we reached a point where our autopilot performance level pushed into the red. Maybe it was once we all memorized the set list, not having to look at each other or announce any cues. After a week or two of that, we'd virtually eliminated any unnecessary time between songs.

You see, I think time between songs is the downfall of most every rock and roll band…banter is best left to Bantam with 8-ball and once your done toweling off, tuning your shitty guitar and taking a swig of lukewarm brew from a Dixie cup, it's already curfew because you've been lollygagging.

So our set of late…with an absolute minimum of space between songs (I'd like to think equally inspired by the Fiery Furnaces and Jay Reatard) has been slaying. With no down time you give the crowd less time to think and that means less time to think you suck. Really, it all just comes down to math in the end. Honest.

Show ended relatively early and the rest of the crew wanted to hit up a bar down the road for last call. I thought the one night we'd finished early would be prime time to get some extra sleep and luckily their last call call got called and they got no drinks.

Instead, we spent our time at Jimmy John's in a college town after 2am on a Friday night. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Ben, of all of my deepest, most ambitious dreams in life, you've managed to live out the one where I mow down a gaggle of drunken 'academics' in a condescending establishment that offers 'free smells' at prime hour" and I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you that while it took every fiber of my being not to do so, I did deeply consider the possibility. Hell, when Obama takes office he'd be longing to pardon my brave soul.

Instead, I ate an Italian sub that was devilishly good.

Next morn with an hour to kill in town and I rock the new Jay Reatard 7" at Love Garden Records and maybe even something else. Hit a vintage store down the block where the guy behind the counter was explaining to his coworker in quite expressive detail about a dream he had involving all kinds of razors and having to jump into a swimming pool full of them with Mr Rogers watching while the late 1980's advertising character for McDonald's "Mack the Knife" campaign curiously cattle-called the Horse of Many Colors from The Wizard of Oz.

So when I came to the counter with a decent, cheap pair of Levi's, I say "You know, I couldn't help but overhear you describe your dream and it's the weirdest thing…I had the exact same dream last night." I always love that one and am hereby requesting you use it whenever you get the opportunity.

Sartain, perhaps weary of the smoking ban in our van, began using dip (smokeless tobacco) sometime around here and I was glad that there were only a few days left, as his bottle of regurgitated black spit wasn't quite the appetizing elixir I had been promised it could be.

St. Louis, long considered the second asshole of the United States after Toledo, found us at the legendary Creepy Crawl. Legendary for the twine rope separating the room into drinking and non-drinking sections and for the onstage fist-fight Patrick Keeler and Brian Olive engaged in that (surprisingly) lead to Olive's exit from the Greenhornes. Our night would prove no less legendary in that our entire rider…two cases of beer, an assortment of granola bars, Cheerios, chips and salsa, sweet Gatorade nectar, was left for us in plastic bags on the floor backstage. Talk about hospitality…we weren't even good enough to warrant a table!

Watched a good chunk of Scarface on the TV at the bar before the Twos started and took to the non-drinking side of the rope to show my support. They brought it. We ate what I was led to believe was goat-cheese pizza. I tasted no distinction.

Set with Sartain may have been the best we will ever play. He had a few drinks beforehand…nothing of major consequence, just a little lubrication to get him lucid. We were like rocket fuel up there. I nailed all my fills…hard and he grooved like everything in the world depended on it. We ended with a song just made up on the spot…Dan all kinds of hiccupping Gene Vincent vocals over a forceful slop-a-billy beat while we're both bathed in sweat and laughing our asses off.

As we walked offstage Pantano said we reminded of something like the Flat Duo Jets that night and that was the only compliment I was hoping for the entire time I'd played with Dan. Mission accomplished.

With big shoes to fill, the Dirtbombs completely destroyed the crowd. Highlights included my climbing atop Pantano's bass drum during the "Kung Fu" break to spray him with Silly String, having the crowd hang on my every word as I implored them to unfold arms and not worry about being white while trying to dance and the 8-year-old girl electrified up front for the entirety of our set.

I lit off fireworks in the parking lot afterwards to celebrate, the purchase thereof the only perk of the otherwise evil drive through Arizona.

We made way as far as we could outside of town and I wrote this fairly self-descriptive poem entitled SUNDAY MAY 25th

did I
stay up
after 3:15am
and two hours of internet later
decide on continental breakfast?


Two pieces of toast, buttered
Undersized bowl of fruit loops, milked
Two cups orange juiced, watered (down)
Cinnamon Danish, bored
All so deliciously unsatisfying
As I wonder
Why in the fuck are these other people awake at 5am?
In their fire department t-shirts? Their sandals?
(me in the shirt I wore onstage the previous night, green/white adidas shorts I wore my senior year for varsity soccer, brown ankle-high boots, unzipped, no socks)

I slowly contemplate life choices
And those of others
Right or wrong
This breakfast nook
Is america

Woke in morning to see a random friend from Detroit walking through the front door. He on a cross-country trip, our unexpected encounter the proof of synchronicity…when figuring the chances of us both staying in the same nothing town, at the same hotel and actually seeing each other…it all makes me feel inexplicably better about the world.

Stopped at Antique Mall where I got a sweet book put together by the US Gov't Comission to investigate the urban uprisings of the 1960's, complete with tons of choice photos and facts about the 1967 Detroit Riots.

I also found a pretty badass men's one-piece bathing suit there, you know, the kind usually worn by a guy with a handlebar moustache, riding one of those bikes with the huge front wheel and lifting the old-fashioned barbells resembling two old-style round black metal bombs held together with a metal rod.

The price was only $50 and that was well within my range. The garment was at least 80-years-old with minimal signs of wear, but if I couldn't fit into the thing, it was useless. I was able to find a bathroom only to see it emblazoned with a sign telling me that no merchandise was allowed within.

I'm not one to break rules, but the rest of the band was waiting for me in the van and I figured the time it would take me to try and do it the honest way would just drag. So I decided to be ready to ask for forgiveness as opposed to just asking for permission and got into a stall and stripped down to my drawers.

Just as I'd removed my shoes, someone else entered the john. We were clearly not in the land of educated tolerance and I was in a bathroom 90% naked (my shoes even off) praying that this hulk didn't peer through that crack between the door and the frame and figure me to be trying on a ladies dress and try to kick my ass.

So even thought that's what I was fully expecting, he merely micturated and was on his merry way. I continued the awkward process of trying to squeeze into the suit only to surmise (with help from the three suits I'd tried on in San Fran a week prior) that men back then didn't have torsos as long as mine. So I'm still in the market for a swinging men's one-piece over-the-shoulder bathing suit and it needn't be wool or vintage. It merely need to be badass.

Columbo was wily…club was downstairs from a White Castle (if I'm lying, I'm dying) which I gladly ate from. Finally made good on my promise to holler "Pipe Bomb, Pipe Bomb" as the Terrible Twos set closer (I think I was wearing a fez while doing so) that quickly descended into onstage pile-on. Sartain set with fluorescent basement lighting ended the tour on a decidedly weak note.

Dirtbombs jammed like grapes and strawberries. Brought my drums out into the crowd during the encore, climbed on some above-head piping, almost broke my ankle getting down from said piping and concluded the entire thing…show, tour, in a proper fashion. I cannot overstress how much touring with people you actually like (socially AND musically) makes the entire process less like a month-long rectal exam and more like a month-long rectal exploration.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

West Coast Part Six: Sweat, tatoos, sex tapes...

Drive to Phoenix would seriously blow monstrous monkey balls. As previously mentioned, we have no air-conditioning in the van. With the only climate control being the ability to roll down windows (and that leaving everyone's wig completely busted) the thermometer-shattering temps we'd encounter this day would leave everyone a little bit stir crazy.

In Yuma we stop at a gas station and Dorien starts talking to a girl no more than 8-years-old who's holding a tiny kitten. As she pulls out her camera to forever burn the moment into eternal digital pixels, Sartain shouts "Hey! Are you trying to win a 'World's Cutest Photo' competition or something?"


From there we make way to Target, someone needed to buy something or other. I asked if anyone had seen one of those bank signs that displays the temperature. No one had, but the temp is pulled up on an iPhone and we're flabbergasted to find the current temp in Yuma to be 115 degrees.

The common saying seems to dictate that heat will not cause discomfort, rather it's the humidity to blame. To that dictum I say fuck you. 115 would make you eat dog shit for a momentary release from the vicious grip of the stifling heat.

Somehow a three-pack of Hanes wife-beaters was procured from Target and soon enough Pat, Troy and I were doing our best imitation of the Drive-By Truckers. Troy really got into the part though…he began to take on the persona of an abusive husband, shouting expletives, watching football, asking "Where's my dinner, bitch?" and just overall letting all of us in on his softer, more feminine side.

I think I drank four 32oz Gatorades that drive, not to mention a bunch of water and at least one Slurpee. By the end of it, my skin had taken a beating from the open windows and began to resemble a sheet of fly-paper. It was sticky and gross with a thin layer of grime on the top that wasn't going anywhere. We arrived to the club to have a little "We Love You!" art project on the wall left for us by the Hard Lessons who'd played there earlier in the week. What a nice bunch of kids.

Sartain tosses "Metropolis" at me (possibly a crowd request) and we work it alright. The unprepared tunes have quickly become what I look forward to in his set. Crowd was alive and percolating by the times the Dirtbombs hit our stride. For a town we'd never been to before, we were all very, very happy and the crowd was equally as pleased. Mutually beneficial, no?

Aftershow Italian sandwich was killer. We drove all the way to Tucson to stay at the Hotel Congress. I could go on forever about this place…rock venue is part of the building, John Dillinger stayed there, National Historic Landmark, rooms as they would have been roughly 50 years ago…it's a nice place. Pat and I were given the exact same room (#33?) that we'd stayed in over two years ago. Eerie.

With daytime to kill in Tucson, I ambulate down the street to Grill for some grub. Another establishment, along with Voodoo Donuts, that I must hit-up every time I'm in its town. Started brunching alone and Pantano joined a little later. I live for a butterscotch malt and they never disappoint in this hipsterfied throwback diner.

I've wondered on numerous occasions if I lived in Tucson, what would my opinion of this establishment be? Would I eat there all the time like it was the Max and I was one of the ancillary background Bayside Tigers like Moose? Or would I shun it with an unparalleled ennui? What do the locals think? It's hard to turn up much anywhere else in that wasteland that has the vaguest sign of life or atmosphere…but do they know that? Do they view it as a necessary evil? Or just a damn fine place to eat? Tucsonians…please chime in if you will.

My post meal trip to the color photo booth was classy. Me sucking down a malt like a wholesome 1950's Lichtenstein depiction. Upon exit and waiting for my strip to vend, I walk upon two women talking to each other and hear a sentence end with something like

"…I'll be slutty or skanky or whatever."

To which I made eye contact with the speaking woman, afforded an appropriate pause and, surprising myself, said "Good luck with that."

She laughed and wanted my opinion. She wanted to know what I thought of her tattoos (I believe this was what she was talking about when I walked into the convo). She showed me her calf which read, in a sort-of classic-style unfurling scroll, the phrase "Absolutely Bullshit."

I said "I, as a whole, cannot stand tattoos, especially on women…But I genuinely like yours." To which she replied "Thank you" and I was on my way to walk around bewildered and lost underneath the oppressive blanket of heat and sunshine bearing down on the city.

After check Campbell and I traipse to Grill and have some pre-show grub. Dude was selling CD's as he DJ'd choice jams and I picked up a Beach Boys "SMILE" boot CD and the Bent Mustache disc as I'd liked the 7" they'd put out. At the show I picked up a copy of the Okmoniks LP straight from the band without having to mention anything about Terminal Boredom Forum.

All three bands played music. A crowd watched.

We made way out of town with hopes of getting Albequerque'd at a decent hour the next day. We ran into the Twos at a trading post and Sartain figured he'd ride with them for a spell. We bid him farewell, watched him wince from across the parking lot as he realized their van has only two seats and sped off before he could change his mind.

While we were on schedule, an unforeseen interstate closure and dust storm put us on a detour. Down time at Dairy Queen with the Twos convoy afforded us the chance to learn how the shake machine really works while waiting for roads to open and storms to settle ultimately added at least two hours to our trek. I thought my skin resembled fly paper the previous day, but the dust storm with van windows open would take it to another level.

By the time we check-in at the Albe hotel, the overall feeling of the troops is one of defeat. We reconvene and venture out for what is supposed to be exceptional Mexican food at a restaurant with a tree growing through the roof. That place was closed so we ate next door where the food is far from exceptional. But a big group meal, all of us sitting at a table together, enjoying each other's company and building the camaraderie…that far surpassed the middling meal we munched.

From there Pantano and I hosted movie night in our room. First was the properly entertaining "Semi-Pro," Will Ferrell delivering as we've all come to expect from him. Following that, we bit the bait and paid to $10 to watch "The Jimi Hendrix Sex Tape."

We totally got ripped off. While the actual footage runs less than ten minutes, they pad the thing out to an hour with banal commentary from Cynthia Plaster Caster and Pamela Des Barres…you know, two broads who can totally carry-on a compelling discourse. And they didn't even have enough dialogue to sufficiently pad with…some snippets and soundbytes being used upwards of three times.

Come on Vivid Video…I'm expecting a little more quality control in regards to dubious sex tapes featuring 1960's guitar icons. As for the actual clip itself…I guess the best way to describe it would be the complete antithesis of erotic. Nevermind that the only way they're identifying the video as featuring Jimi Hendrix is that there's a black guy with a headband and Afro in it whose extreme lack of movement the entire film speaks to possible chemical paralyzation. Otherwise…it's a D+ stag film at best.

Campbell from the Twos sat on my bed while we were watching both movies. He made me feel slightly uncomfortable. Maybe it was the spooning?

The Larimer Lounge in Denver is neither particularly offensive nor pleasant. It just is. The crowd was exceptionally tuned-in for the Dirtbombs jams and it felt good to scream "WHY DON'T YOU DANCE WITH ME?" to get them all loose and danceable. I even threw some Tyvek "Honda" into the mix to see if the Twos were listening. They were.

Seemed to be a strong Detroit contingent representing (even without Mark Norton or my cousin Gary attending) and it's always fun when someone says "Hey, I'm from Detroit" to ask "Oh really, what part?" to which they almost exclusively reply "Flint", "Bad Axe" or in some extreme cases "Delray."

It seems that expatriation from the region finds anyone from Grand Rapids southward claiming to be "from Detroit" whereas when actually in the Metro Detroit area people utilize electron microscopes to determine whether or not one lies within the city limits and can thus claim all of the requisite "cred" (?) that comes with.

Doesn't it all sound like a bunch of overzealous pieces of toilet paper fighting over who gets to wipe an ass? Even if you win the argument, you're still covered in shit.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

West Coast Part Five: Rock and Roll Alive and Well...

Day off after Portland was prime recuperation time. I imagine had I put the strain on my knee by trying to perform that I would've only exacerbated the situation. Instead, we spent the daylong drive to San Francisco in a sweaty van without any air conditioning. By the time we'd arrived at the Hotel Phoenix I was feeling spent.

Switched hotels next morning and was the lone band member to end up at the Hyatt. Fucking swank. A welcome change to say the least.

After some calm time spent traipsing the Haight, I arrived at Amoeba for our instore performance. Put on my new bass drum head, shopped a little with my $50 voucher in mind (used copy of Beck's 2xCD Odelay reissue, Relatively Clean Rivers, Last Shadow Puppets) then sat in the lounge upstairs for an interview with former Dirtbomb and current Amoeba employee Tom Lynch.

While I generally despise all five of us being interviewed at once, for some reason Lynch was a formidable foe able to keep us all in check and conduct a provoking and spirited interview.

It took a song or two before I realized that I was playing without any pain in my knee. What a relief. We did Surrounded save for "Race to the Bottom" and "La Fin Du Monde" and best compliment of the tour came from Utrillo of the legendary ATP mainstays Comets on Fire. Simply put, his "Man, these guys are LOUD" could not have come from a more-approving person.

Immediately after finishing our set we had to tear down all our shit, load it in the van and then trek the half-mile up to the Independent so that we could soundcheck there. Some straight-up, hardcore pure giging bullshit. Our main man Kurt Schlegel came to the rescue at the soundboard and made everything run nice and smoothly.

The Terrible Twos got to play in front of a good crowd and that made me happy. Sartain vomited right before (or right after?) we played because he'd eaten some iffy oysters earlier.

Set with DB's was everything it needed to be. The room was packed and appropriate energies were both given and received from the stage. They didn't even to hesitate to dance. As a band we could ask for nothing more and I genuinely think the crowd couldn't either.

Next day a hellacious drive to L.A. The heat blazing again, the air conditioning somehow not self-repairing and some traffic snarls aside, we actually made it in time to squeeze out a soundcheck. The Terrible Twos were not so lucky. I think they finally got to the club about 15 minutes after they were supposed to start playing. The Troubadour told them to not even bother bringing in their equipment and instead they got to talk to Mike Watt and drink our beers.

During Sartain's set the smoke machine spits its acrid bile and he says "Don't you know you're not allowed to smoke in bars here?" To which the sound guy (the fucking SOUND guy!) replies in an otherwise silent room "It's water-based!"

As if any more documentation or scholarship was needed to drive home the fact that "sound" guys as a whole are complete and utter wastes of Leatherman tools and the ability to repeat the words "tsoo, tsoo" ad nauseum, I hereby offer your more grist for the milling.

Dirtbombs set felt proper. Some of the Twos joined us for the encore…Ko climbed the big metal lighting rig, Pat pulled out his floor tom and rocked that solo and while he left others to worry about the beat to "Kung Fu" and for a second it all felt perfect.

Post show ranting from Watt was welcome as he'd never seen us before and testified to his mind being blown. What a guy. As the place empties there's a few stragglers, one I feel particularly wary of. A friend comes up and says he has someone he wants to introduce me to…and the questionable straggler is Ben Sheppard of Soundgarden. To top it off, he's a Dirtbombs fan.

That alone made my night and would've topped the tour had I not ended up behind the wheel of a minivan packed with people from bands such as Melvins, the White Stripes, Nirvana, the Gories and Soundgarden trying to catch last call at the Wagon Wheel and nervous that my car wreck earlier in the week had been some sort of precursor to a Day the Music Died Tragedy.

We arrived at the Wagon Wheel safely and the most memorable exchange between the two Ben's went something like this:

BB: I saw Soundgarden at the Palace of Auburn Hills on the Down on the Upside tour…Rocket From the Crypt and Tenderloin opened…you came out and played bass with them…

BS: …I played guitar with them…

BB: …you played guitar with them for a song. At the end of the set you did the big encore…Cornell put his Les Paul on top of his amp and stood on it like it was a surfboard until he snapped the neck off. It was amazing.

BS: (nothing)

BB: So after that, the house lights come on and music starts playing and they begin to usher people out of the arena. Out of nowhere you guys come back on stage, Cornell says something like "Turn the fucking lights off! We're gonna play some more!" and you proceed to blow everyone's mind.

BS: (nothing)

BB: What I've been dying to know for over ten years is…was that at all planned?

BS: Hell no! We'd have been dying to get out of there as soon as possible. We could've never planned something like that.

BB: Good. Thank you for restoring my faith in rock and roll.

Next day onward to San Diego and I slept the whole drive there. If ever existed a club other than the Casbah in this town, I'd never know it. Only recently have I discovered that there actually exists shit to do around there. Ambled up Kettner Ave to a bar that had a horrid band and excellent cheeseburgers/fish tacos. We ordered carry-out, me with the praise-worthy cheese burg, and ate it on the water as the sun slowly faded.

Good time chilling with Twos before the show. Learned the story of their tour last summer with the Frustrations in which they had a contest to see who could go the longest without masturbating. But some tough decisions had to be made…apparently actually hooking up with a girl did not disqualify one from the competition (as depriving a band mate of that most basic need would be cruel) but if you had TWO wet dreams you were eliminated.

As they put it, one wet dream was forgivable. After the second one, though, it's like you're consciously trying to make it happen. And it seems some offense was taken in the fact that one of these wet dreams occurred while the band was staying at one of their grandma's house.

I love the Terrible Twos more and more each day.

With Sartain in his second hometown and I think we brought the noise. Dirtbombs did our thing and the Tan Diego crowd is always appreciative. Watching Craig from the Twos rock out while we're playing was priceless. He'd keep begging for "Cedar Pointe '76" and resorted to saying stuff (true or not doesn't matter) like "Yeah, uh, I was out in the crowd and, uh, there was a bunch of fans out there all complainin' that you didn't do 'Cedar Pointe' so you should probably, you know, start to, uh, do it again." We'd throw him a bone a few days later in Kansas and he danced like a fool. And I really wouldn't want to have it any other way.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

West Coast Part Four: Pain...

Next day to the uncharted territory of Victoria, British Columbia. The ferry ride was a welcome change from slogging transcontinental Canadian highways.

A sunny day on the island was quite enjoyable. A few record stores were worth the trip…picked up a 4xCD John Lee Hooker set that was cheap and exhaustive. Also got baseball-style, 3/4 sleeve shirt that says "Detroit: the Home of Punk Polka" accompanied by an illustration by Guindon. I doubt I'll ever wear it, but I couldn't in good-faith leave such a nugget in Victoria.

Mick and I shared a meal at a local Chinese place, not particularly good, but appreciated in the fact that it ended my hunger. First band was the Laundronauts, a concept-band if you will, whose shtick was garage rock songs all about laundry. They wore all white suits and I didn't watch them play.

Nothing of note to relay about either the Sartain or Dirtbombs' sets.

Lobby call next morning was marred by the fact that our intended ferry departure of 1pm was fully-booked and we wouldn't be able to get on another until 3pm. Bummed to say the least, I made the most of my time in Victoria, decided against re-purchasing all the 8-bit Nintendo cartridges of my youth from a well-stocked pawn shop, wandered aimlessly, purchased a mini plate of meat from a miniatures store and generally enjoyed the unexpected free time in what's actually a pretty cool town for Canada. I recommend.

Ferry trip found us with a parking spot completely unencumbered by any obstructions of view. The van was essentially in open air with no one in front of us, a complete 180-degree vista of the dazzling seascapes a fanciful treat to view from behind the wheel of a Dodge van. After digging that for awhile I made to the poop deck for some grub. At some point the captain announced a pod of Orca's visible on the starboard side. Quickly recalling my time spent rowing in the Detroit River, I headed over to what seemed to be the correct side, but alas saw no orcas.
It was a minor letdown.

Once back on land we give the van a thorough once-over with a gas station vacuum, empty out what we'd collected from Canadian catering (well over a case of beer to just be left for anyone brave enough to take it) and through the border where the attending officer ordered the side-door opened just so he could get a peek at Ko, to which he smiled and waved us on our way.

Once in Seattle and settled, we ventured to Linda's for drinks and conversation. Spent the night playing "JOURNEY ESCAPE", messing around with an air cannon, discussing the peculiarity and non-canonical attributes of "SUPER MARIO BROTHERS 2" (seriously, even if your Nintendo interest is minimal, you MUST view the Angry Nintedo Nerd's explanation video online) and then sleeping in the basement of an old mansion apportioned into neat little apartments.

Next morning for our KEXP session. The staff was courteous and professional, later explained to us by the fact that they do at least one live session A DAY there. Mick's amp crapped out while we were getting levels, they brought in a suitable replacement and just before broadcast, his Pignose began working again.

It was all quick and painless and fairly rote. I felt no need to speak during the interview portion as times where each member is given a microphone can often feel like the in-between song banter from the Kick Out the Jams album. Luckily it seems Mick handled most of the queries and in next to no time our four songs were done. A photo shoot in the rain afterwards and then off to Guitar Center.

I'd been to the GC in downtown Seattle before. I've been to them all before. That's not a fact I offer up with pride, but rather with a level of self-hatred usually reserved for familial shame-causing Japanese business men. I purchased a 20" Paiste PST medium ride, some sticks, a set of maracas and a tambourine. I'm sure the salesperson called me dude.

From there to sushi lunch. On the waterfront. Tasty. As the only one at the meal who didn't drink, I was entrusted with the keys to the vehicle. So that made it all the more ironic that I would happen to cause an accident while driving. Pulled out into traffic, didn't see the other car coming (I think it was a Prius, so maybe I just didn't HEAR it) and managed to hit 'em pretty good. Everyone in both cars was fine, I was a bit embarrassed so much so that I didn't even have the heart to approach the other driver and say, "ARE YOU GOING TO FUCKING APOLOGIZE!"

Post soundcheck we embark to record a vid session for the Takeaway show. I have no idea what this thing actually is, but the guy who runs our website said it was a pretty big deal. We search desperately for somewhere to record the thing (I suggest in one of the dumpsters outside Neumo's, but no one else seems interested) and instead we start off with "Leopardman" in the bathroom of the bar across the street. We ended with "Devil Inside" by a reflecting pool in a park across the street. The overall experience was fun and I can't wait to see how it turns out.

Show was smooth…Terrible Twos were on in front of a crowd for once and we all dug that. Dan and I brought some damage and the Dirtbombs portion was well-smooth. Had fun on the encore and most of the time, that's all that matters to me. Post-show was a quick breakdown where we had to jet off for our hotel rooms in Portland.

The Jupiter Hotel was cool, but I'll reserve a full review for whenever the hell we actually get to play the Doug Fir Lounge. All I know is that ever since I first set foot in the place (on what just happened to be it's opening night) I've wanted to play there badly. And ever since then it seems like we've played Dante's a minimum of 47 times.

Day tramping around Portland with Malissa was enjoyable. Lunch at Kenny and Zuke's was particularly amazing…their vast selection of exotic sodas from across the globe warmed my heart. Where else outside of New England can you find Moxie and in a glass bottle to boot? 'Twas well worth the wait for a table and the sandwiches were glorious in all of their meat-stacking magnificence.

Time at Powell's was glorious as always. While a recent interest has had me desperately wanting to buy oversized art books, I ultimately had to pass on the $100 and upwards collections of Panter, Schnabel, Ryden ($500?) Hirst and instead bought the new Sonic Youth book by Stevie Chick, Maps and Legends by Michael Chabon, a collection of Black Panther Party papers and ephemera, the BOMP magazine book, the Onion's Our Dumb Planet and a Borat book, along with some Gorey stuff, a used copy of Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, a Coltrane bio and What Music Means to Girls for Malissa. I got out for under $300, but still spent more dough there than anyone else in the band.

I honestly feel no qualms about spending money (and lots of it) on books. I feel that it is all in the spirit of the scholarly pursuit, no? Really what price could you put on the information…whether it be raw facts, philosophical insight, bellyaching laughter, contained within the volumes purchased? How many rhetorical questions can I ask in a row?

Was thrilled to rock some Voodoo Donuts. Tiny yet comfortable, this 24-hour donut dispensary is the kind of place that makes me feel good about America. Petite in size and with walls covered in metaphorical shit, the proprietors of this mighty establishment have managed to take the boring, bland breakfast to coppers the world over and give it an ingenious Gen-X twist and open it up for munching at all hours.

The best donuts all seem to be ones topped with sugary breakfast cereals…Captain Crunch, Froot Loops and thank god NOT Raisin Bran all make a delicious hand-held dessert to die for. The maple log with a topping of strips of bacon is for more adventurous gormandizers but a treat nonetheless. Apparently they used to have a donut filled with cough syrup (or some other medicinal equivalent) but it's since been removed from the menu. Either way, Voodoo Donuts is, at this point, the only eatery that I make a conscious effort to visit every time I visit when I'm in its town. HIGEST OF RECOMMENDATIONS.

Show could have gone better…busted through my bass drum head in the middle of Sartain's set, so just hopped on over to Pantano's kit and finished from behind there. With the spare drum heads I'd bought mistakenly thrown out by an as-yet-undetermined member of the touring party sometime after Fargo, I had nothing to replace it with and instead had to borrow Jeff from Terrible Twos white-with-red-marker-flourishes bass drum.

First mistake.

Second mistake was trying to do a headstand on that bass drum at the conclusion of our set. I don’t' know…maybe I sized it up all wrong, came at it too hard, didn't bail when I should've and instead spilled upside-down towards my rack tom/snare and wrenched my right knee HARD on some metal stands. Fucking hell it was instantly painful. I limped offstage, hoping nothing was royally fucked.

Enough adrenalin was flowing to come back for an encore and to even dip into the crowd to dance a mess around. But upon return to downstairs sanctuary, I was anticipating for the worst. A bag of ice was scared up, I dropped my pants and left the thing on there for at least a half-hour, my mind left to wander and contemplate how I'd got there.

Most periods of my childhood are punctuated with memories of my dad icing his leg, and usually, more specifically, his knee. He was (and still is) a consummate athlete and nary was there a time where the freezer wasn't stocked with those paper Gatorade cups…all green and waxy and flimsy. Once frozen, the offending paper would be peeled away delicately like a rind, exposing the glacial interior goodness for maximum icing capabilities. He would sit on the floor of the living room, his back up against the couch, legs splayed, and almost always unleashed an exhausted sigh as he exhaled followed by a wincing breath inward as the ice was applied.

My dad spent lots of time playing sports. My mom would probably say it was too much time and that he wasn't around as much as he should've been. I can't really agree or disagree with that…I played lots of sports that he coached which most likely afforded me more time with him. My parents divorced when I was 19-years-old and I like to think it had no affect on me.

So as I sat alone, away from my family, in the midst of a tour that would span at LEAST 5 months, contemplating the havoc it was wreaking on all of my personal relationships, with a knee in absolute pain and the ice acting merely as a distracting panacea, I couldn't help but think that no matter how hard I tried to do otherwise that I was destined to repeat the actions of my father.

I already had the moustache.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

West Coast Part Three: Can't Stand the Light...

From Saskatoon to Calgary. If memory serves the roads were uneventful and boring.

Someone yelled out "Telegram Sam" during the Sartain set and again, although we'd never even played it together, Dan wholeheartedly jumped into the song and I was left to try and follow.

I actually dig this approach…the "there's-only-two-of-us, how-hard-could-it-be-to-figure-out-we'll-just-do-it-on-stage" tactic that I've come to know and love from the White Stripes makes loosey goosey a positive trait and keeps everyone on their toes. When you finish a song, you're left with a sensational feeling that can only be described (weakly) as "well shit, we got through that, we can do anything." I believe the Germans have a word for it.

From Calgary that night to Red Deer where another booking foul-up (but of course, the hotel's fault) puts Pat, Dan and I in a smoking room with one queen-sized bed and one pull-out couch, a room that was supposed to have two full-size beds, mind you.

So being the understanding hoteliers that that are, the good folks at the Red Deer Best Western (an establishment curiously sans waterslide) just tossed in an extra single room at no extra charge. As we sat paralyzed at the ability to make a decision on who should get the room, tour manager Dorien declared that I, the non-smoker, should be the one.

I guess Mick and Troy were put in the same room set-up (one pull-out, one queen) when they too were promised two fulls and a pull-out. Troy was peeved about being stuck with the bitch bed and while going to the front desk for an Internet cable encountered the lady at the front desk offers him keys to the free room she'd just promised.

Troy is not expecting this and is geeked…only to find out that the room was actually meant for me, coming from the space previously cluttered by three dudes total. Needless to say, he was a little bummed when this was relayed to him.

So as slide the key card and open the door to my own private Idaho, imagine the amazement and utter confusion of seeing two full-size beds inside. Weird. It also put me in an awkward predicament. Do I just keep the room and not say a thing? Or do I call Troy and say there's a bed downstairs with your name on it, let's shack up and gossip all night long and leave Mick and his fursuits alone?

It was a tough decision and I though all of, oh, zero seconds before I settled on keeping the pad for myself and enjoying some Ben time.

After blogging my balls out, I took to slumbering and found myself perturbed by the itsy-bitsy sliver of space spewing light from between the curtains. This is, by far, my biggest hotel pet peeve…worse than non-existant "Do Not Disturb" signs, worse than clocks not set to the correct time, worse than a room having only one electrical outlet strategically placed on the ceiling and even worse yet than a shower head that comes up to my neck.

No, easily the worst offense a room of lodging can make is having a set of curtains that just don't meet all the way. Because that slice of light is going make your room look like the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark come sun-up and that unexpected awakening and unavailable return to REM alone will ruin your day.

So I climb on top of a chair to fix this fiasco…lobby call the next day isn't until 3pm and I want to make the most of my sleepy time. After tugging a bit and twisting to having the drapes kinda folded over each other where they met, I put an ever-so-slight amount of pressure on the curtain rod and without warning, pulled the fucking thing out of the wall.

My immediate verbal reaction was "Aw hell naw!"

So instead of remedying the situation, I'd just amplified it's severity, now only enjoying the services of half a curtain, in my underwear in front of a window overlooking the Canadian highway at some bullshit hour like 5:30am.

First things first, I put on a pair of shorts…I ain't letting any overzealous Canuck paparazzo's snag the million-loonie shot because of some malfunctioning shades. Second, I completely removed the secondary, see-through, gauze-like curtain that serves no fucking purpose whatsoever and threw that shit on the floor. Now with the vacant attachments from the gauze poseurs, I hooked the actual functioning curtains up without a problem and gave myself a pat on the back for such quick and effective solution. (All those years missing Silent Reading once a week at St. Clare for the Michigan Future Problem Solvers have now finally paid off)

For the first time in Edmonton we weren't playing the New City Likwid Lounge and instead, were playing the club exactly one block away that looked exactly like New City on the inside. So take that! Free time spent talking to hardcore White Stripes collectorate and having a decent Asian meal.

We'd spend the night in Red Deer again and I again was privy to my own room. As we checked out the next morning, an older female employee of the hotel said she just had to ask what kind of music we played. After we all replied "rock and roll" in sing-songy unison, she made a disappointed face and told us she had guessed otherwise.

When we asked her what music she thought we played, she sheepishly replied "jazz" to which, I must admit, it was a little hard not busting out and laughing at right away. Mick maybe…but Ko? Or me? Jazz? We do share a common understanding of the word "jazz" here, right Canada?

Between Edmonton and Vancouver we had a day off to make the moosetacular drive. It's at this point where the scenery becomes noteworthy…the Canadian Rockies are picturesque and, at moments, breathtaking.

Everyone was looking forward to our planned downtime in Banff, if only for an excuse to repeatedly say the word "Banff." Come on, just let that silky smooth Canadian city just roll off your tongue and say it with me…Banff. Don't you feel better? I know I do.

So while it is kind of a high-end ski resort town, there's still some cool shit to dig on. Bang-On iron-on store has Dirtbombs Blackula t-shirt transfers available and there's enough neon designer t-shirt/$800 sunglasses/graffiti bathing suit/faux urban sneaker peddlers to keep you laughing for hours on end. Add to that the high-end fossil shop (with some shit as high as $75,000) and the weird overabundance of sunlight (creepy!) and the whole time in town was a relative blast.

I managed to finally find some reusable plastic cutlery at a camping supply store, a trio of bright orange bits handily kept together on a harbinger and a relative steal for $5. This would make late-night snacking a thing of ease for the rest of the tour. I was hoping for a decent pair of Lou Reed-worthy black wraparound shades circa 1967, but no such luck.

All seven of us met up for a group meal at an upstairs Japanese restaurant, one of them real deal things where you take off your shoes and sit at the sunken tables. The entire experience there was so pleasant, relaxing and delicious that it totally saved the day. Those low tables made me just stretch out and try to catch some z's, to which I was told by the rest of the band that it wasn't "proper Japanese custom for burly American to take nap at table after meal." It's nice to learn something new every day.

At some charming pee break b/n Banff and Rogers Pass, we noticed an empty children's playground within sprinting distance of the piss house. With no trouble mustering energy on a day off, I galloped on over, trucked down the slide, tried the monkey bars I was too tall for and then made my way to the nearby stream to go skip rocks. Had Tom Sawyer shown up, I'd be painting that picket fence with his blood…that's just how wholesomely badass I was rolling.

Long drive the next day to Vancouver, arrive at the club just in time for soundcheck and it's even cooler when we can delay it a few minutes to watch some of the Red Wings game. We'd play pretty solid…even before the encore we'd gotten all kinds of goofy and sloppy, me and Troy wrasslin' around, falling offstage and taking a monitor with us while getting gently sprayed with beer. I couldn't believe that the monitor fell and didn't kill anyone, least of all Troy or I who were both essentially in its flight path.

I also think Vancouver was the first town I pulled out singing "Dance This Mess Around" in earnest during the breakdown in our "Kung Fu" encore. The crowd ate it up. After show merch table praise (was this where the pin sets and bottle openers showed up?) was at an all-time high, letting us know that we got the job done. Talks of hitting a bar or club later dissipated when I got to the hotel and realized I'd rather just sleep…but I'm told Troy totally slayed at karaoke at the hotel bar.