West Coast Finale: Shit...Poetry?
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
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
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.