Saturday, November 22, 2008

Interstitial: Dirtbombs Propaganda from Recent Times...

To tide y'all over until I get some more writing done.

First, from our in-store at Amoeba SF back in May. Two thoughts after I viewed this:
1: Tom Lynch conducts conducts (possibly) the best Dirtbombs interview ever


2. During this performance, more often than not, we look completely bored onstage

Second, Mick and I got interviewed by Jesse Thorn of "The Sound of Young America" which may or may not be syndicated by your local public radio station. I get to geek out on the Gories, which is fun. Listen to it here:

Monday, November 17, 2008

TVOTR Part Eight: A Police Situation...

Wake-up in post-election happiness. Breakfast at Auntie Em's in Eagle Rock and owner/operator/former Red Aunt Terri Wahl comps the meal. Mick and I then did a solid interview for the Sound of Young America radio show, a nationally syndicated program that we've actually listened to in the van before. With downtime after that we hit Amoeba Records in Hollywood. I feel equally ashamed and proud in saying that I bought nothing there.

Headlining the Detroit Bar in Costa Mesa ain't too shabby. After soundcheck we ate at the Mexican place next door. It was decent. From there, we ventured to the Borders up the road. When touring, a Borders or Barnes and Noble is the equivalent of "goal" in a game of tag. It's somewhere you can go and relax without fear of reprisals or persecution. Each and every one of these chain locations feels the same as the others and thus, in the grand scheme of things, vaguely familiar. We easily kill an hour there without even noticing.

Opening band Pistolero wasn't to my liking. But with Starlite Desperation as the middle band I was quite geeked. I hadn't seen them in about four years and their newest material on both Don't Do Time and Take It Personally stacks up to their best work in my opinion.

They opened with "Spirit Army" and I dug it, slinky bassline and all. They'd play one old tune, "Our Product" off their first 7" and dedicated it to me. Watching them play makes me feel like I'm still a senior in high school and Go Kill Mice was played to death/witnessed live that year more than you'd care to believe. Someday, maybe even here, I'll recall the days of hanging out at their crib on Commonwealth. What strange, strange days.

With a small hole in my floor tom head I asked Jeff from Starlite if I could borrow his floor tom. He said he was planning to leave during our set, that he had to be up early the next morning…and then just offered me his floor tom head. Dude literally gave me the head off his tom. It doesn't get any deeper than that for drummers.

Any detractive comments about our performance clearly stemmed from confusion between bandmates about doing our "headliner" set or our "opener" set. We'd agreed on an amended "opener" set beforehand but certain band members fell into "headliner" actions. This was, for all intents and purposes, completely unnoticeable to the audience.

Trying to get myself into "Start the Party" I'd accidentally biffed myself in the corner of my right eye with my drumstick. So hard that I managed to throw myself off the beat and have to play most of the song with my both my eyes closed…equal parts coping mechanism for the excruciating pain and hope that my eyeball would stay inside my ocular cavity. I was surprised there was no blood.

Drive back to LA to crash at the label HQ in Eagle Rock. I grab the couch, as I always do there, and it becomes a vague point of contention in the band. Pat asks why I always get the couch and I don't have a reason, just that I do. Never mind the fact that I claimed it first that night. It would not have been an issue had there been anything more than floor space available that night. Tired, I kinda snapped at him…told him he was free to find a hotel or someone else's place to stay that night, that no one was making him sleep on the floor. He responded acquiesced with "I'm just tired" to which I countered "I know Pat. We all are."

We were able to take the next day lazy…doing laundry, showering, loading mp3's into our laptops, enjoying the unfailing California sunshine and just generally relaxing before heading to the Wiltern around 6pm.

We were excited because catering was still up AND we got our $10 buy-outs. This never happens. We loaded up on the "make-your-own-fajitas" and cookies and ice cream as if we hadn't seen food in days. The thing with a catered club is that you have to view it that way…like you'll never see food again.

Our set, by all accounts, killed. With Larry from In the Red and Dale from the Melvins as the two people who've seen 100% of our Los Angeles area shows in our career in agreement, we clearly won over many people in the crowd. I feel confident in saying we could not have played a better show.

Afterwards we hung backstage and chatted with friends from Liars and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Rainn Wilson was there and Ko apparently thinks he's kinda weird.

Back to Larry's and to a comfortable night on the couch outside of Detroit that I've spent the most time on. Woke in the morning with and extreme lack of plans and responsibilities. Ate lunch at the Oinkster…chocolate malt and pastrami sandwich was delightful. Relented and finally did some laundry, having lasted just about a month without having to. Made plans for dinner with my buddy Josh. Larry, also with plans for dinner, put on the new Beefheart reissue It Comes to You in a Brown Paper Bag and we sat in his living room chatting leisurely.

I see what appears to be a spotlight searching around Larry's street. We then realize we've been hearing a helicopter overheard for a bit of time. It then becomes clear there is some sort of situation. Out in his backyard we hear from the chopper "Please surrender and give up your weapons."

I was half-hoping to hear them say "We have you surrounded."

Larry lives right at a "T" of two streets, with one end marked off with police tape and the other two blocked by police cars with their flashing lights. Despite all of this, he figured he'd be able to leave without a hitch. As he walked to his car he was informed that not only was he not able to leave, but that he wasn't even supposed to be outside his house.

According to the police officer, there were people in the neighborhood with weapons and the police couldn't find them.

We sat, metaphorical prisoners. Larry finally told his date to just come and pick him up and while they didn't let her past the police line, they did let Larry walk up the street toward the safe zone, but only if he would walk on the opposite side of the street.

We'd later find out that there was a car chase in the neighborhood and that the perps crashed the vehicle and scattered. The cops nabbed one of the suspects but the other was loose, so they blocked off the neighborhood and slowly combed through each block searching for him. I do not know if he was apprehended or not.

I managed to sneak out of the abode the same way Larry did and Josh and I hit up Local (the name of the restaurant and not an indicator of it's caloric content) in Echo Park for grub. I'm told the premise of the restaurant is that everything is made from fresh, local ingredients. I had the braised lamb tips and it was alright, but mainly had me wondering who in the hell is raising lamb in the city? The lemonade was clearly fresh, but too tart for my taste. I did find myself completely floored by their apple-cream chesse-caramel-sea salt hot desert…that dish totally made the meal.

From there we went back to Josh's crib and shot the shit, connecting over the fact that we both owned the same weird Mudhoney t-shirt when we were teenagers (with the band depicted on a TV set on the front and fake TV Guide listings on the reverse). Josh showed me the missing chord to "Cold Brains" that'd been bugging me for a couple of years, all while a video of him backing Beck back in 2003 played on the television.

Our buddy Steve came over and 3/4's of the band Kore Krew was in full-effect. There's unreleased recordings of us that, if Steve ever gets off his ass, might even be worth releasing. Called it a night and searching for Steve's car on the street for about 20 minutes was kinda hilarious.

Steve dropped me off back at Larry's, but not before taking me to the 7-11 in Eagle Rock, where for the third night in a row, I bought a pink-frosted donut with sprinkles. I think said donuts contain crack, as I was fucking hooked on these things like schadenfreude enthusiasts to Amy Winehouse.

We left from Larry's the next afternoon, but not before I worked out a trade for his out-of-print Cotton Museum 10" that was high atop my want list. Drive to San Diego seemed quicker and easier than usual.

The show that eve was a birthday party for a local radio station with two more bands on the bill than we're used to on the TVOTR/DBOMBS chuckwagon. We would be the second band. Noticing that TVOTR's soundcheck ran a little late, I figured there was no way we'd even get a chance to soundcheck, so I walked up the street to the mall.

The only store I'd visit was Levi's. While still never having bought a new pair of them in my life, I still always give them a chance. They had Orange Tab reissues that were absent when I visited my sister's store in Chicago, so I took the bait and took a pair of skinny fit and a pair of flares, both 36x32, to the dressing room.

The skinny fit was almost a joke on my end…with the circumference of one of my thighs hovering around that of a moderate-sized oak tree, there's hardly a "cut" that can diminish their impact. But after I found the flares were GASP, baggy and I contemplated the benefits of diversifying my blue jean reserves, no doubt inspired by an article I'd just read in GQ. $80 later and I'm the proud/confused owner of a new pair of Levis slim fit Orange Tab jeans. Weird.

While in line at Levis I got a call that it was time to soundcheck. Unexpectedly, TVOTR's tour manager had thrown some weight to get us the luxury so I hoofed it quickly back to the club and marveled at the monitor engineer walking around barefoot with the most vile, gouted, purple, misshapen feet I'd ever seen. Gross.

Zack and I walked up the street to Pokez for burritos that were offensively large. It is my hope with the new administration in Washington that someone steps up and puts and end to burrito inflation. I don't think, with our economy in the state that it is, that we can afford to keep making these things the size of one of Jupiter's more substantial moons. Zack wants me to mention that I could not even finish mine and that it should be a source of pride for Pokez. If he has any other input he can start his own blog.

Opening band was made up of DJ's from the sponsoring radio station, including John "Speedo" Reis of Rocket From the Crypt/Swami Records notoriety. They did all covers and I didn't quite know what to make of it…song selection was good with VU, the Who, Elvis Costello and other hip choices. Mick came out and sang "I Wanna Be Your Dog" as their final number and the rest of us D'bombs commented on how easy it is to forget what a commanding frontman the guy is.

Being in the unfavorable 2nd of four bands slot, we came at it with a bit of spite, not at any particular person, but just the situation. Thankfully, it translated, the crowd dug it and when I threw my floor tom from the audience back onto the stage and it unpredictably landed perfectly balanced on top of my bass drum (a feat of skill that could not be matched if I tried to replicate it a thousand times) I knew that the gods were on our side that night.

The third band (the generally inoffensive Delta Spirit) was clearly daunted by their spot on the bill. The fun thing was with us having to make it to San Fran for the show the next night, we didn't even stick around to watch them flail. We loaded up and hit I-5 for about four hours before we'd get our slumber that night, knowing full well that we'd rocked to the fullest of our capabilities.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

TVOTR: Halloween, Waterslide, Election Day...

Hauled ass to get to Kansas City on time. The show would take place in an atrium-like space in the Power and Light District. Nothing within a half-mile of this complex looked like it was built before 2005. All new, shiny, soulless and unfailingly gross.

There was a bit of confusion as to what the running order of bands would be. TVOTR would obviously be headlining and our contract said we were to go on immediately before them. But Shiny Toy Guns, a new wave band signed to Universal and most definitely destined for failure was possibly going in the direct support slot because, you know, they're on Universal.

After loading and being assured we would get nothing remotely resembling a sound check, I took off walking down the street. KC has an arts district, supposedly, but everything seemed to be closed early for Halloween. The building for the local newspaper, the Kansas City Star, seemed to take up a remarkable city block and serve as a prime example of engaging modern architecture that the Power and Light District should be taking cues from.

With an exorbitant amount of time to kill, Zack and I took the van to some record store that we spent approximately 45 seconds in. Up the street was a high-end vintage store that, while having prime selection only slightly overpriced (operating as an establishment where all merchandise is perpetually "on sale"), failed to offer anything compelling enough to purchase.

Got back to the venue before Shiny Toy Guns played. I did not watch them, but what I heard through the walls was enough to tell me I would not like them. The fact that they went ten minutes over their set time was not cool either.

We slung some hop in our step and got our shit up mad quick. By the time we got onstage we were only five minutes behind schedule. The whole food-court style space was completely fucking packed, a free radio station-sponsored show on Halloween apparently being a big draw in this town. There were at least three thousand people there and I'd bet 2936 of them had never heard of us.

Nevertheless, we pulled out all the stops to rock them. Somewhere in the middle I lost the stick in my right hand while playing my floor tom. I grabbed another and then saw a hole in my drum skin and the stick slowly sliding inside it, like the drum survived solely on the corpses of drumsticks and was yelling "FEED ME BENNY, FEED ME!"

Luckily, TVOTR has a spare tom on stage right so I ran back and grabbed up, clamped the mic down on the rim and smoothly pretended like nothing ever happened.

Not sure if the crowd was wowed or not, by the time we were wrapping up I decided to pull out all the stops. Grabbed my snare drum, climbed a speaker stack and then started playing it on top of there. Threw the snare at the rest of my kit and knocked down a bunch of shit. Then grabbed my floor tom and slammed it on top of a cymbal stand.

From there, requisite bass drum standing rock out ending.

I think we won them over.

TVOTR were highly into the Halloween spirit (Mick and I made no effort at costumes, Pat, Ko and Zack all wore Zorro-style masks and Z also gave himself fake facial hair) and between Sexy Santa, Gingerbread Man, undead zombie, some kind of monk and more, they looked it.

They'd even convinced the singer of that night's openers Beautiful Bodies to hop onstage during "Wolf Like Me" and pour fake blood all over herself. We hid toward the back of the stage to watch this. Suddenly, guitar tech Sean handed me a water bottle filled with fake blood and gestured toward the stage. Not wanting to anger the headliners, I got up there and poured they syrupy slop over her already-drenched head. I hope it looked cool.

Good costumes were: Jackie Starr from Semi-Pro, the Ralph Macchio shower curtain from Karate Kid and a blackface Mr. T.

After the show to the hotel, some kind of fraternity ballroom party in the Hyatt and it looked like Freaknik in there. I'm just glad the room had an iPod dock and a king-size bed.

Next morning we cruise over to Arthur Bryant's barbeque. After spending so much time the previous day in what amounted to a mall food court, it was nice to frequent an establishment with a little bit of flavor.

The building is no-frills, other than the requisite legendary restaurant fare (laudatory press clippings, photos of Presidents eating there). The line on this day would almost snake out the door. The half-hour wait in line was worth it. The barbeque at Bryant's maintains an almost cult-like following and once you taste it it's easy to see why.

I ordered the standard, can't-go-wrong classic of the beef sandwich, fries and lemonade. Once coupled with the original sauce it was sheer gastronomical heaven. I hate to belabor the point, but this is what America is all about. Restaurants started by minorities with inauspicious beginnings, serving gut-busting, artery clogging fare, servicing a community with quality and reliability year after year…you DO NOT find this anywhere else in the world. People do not lionize kebab shops in England, they don't worship the automats in the Netherlands. No one talks about a sausage place "you just have to go to" in Germany. No, it's quite clear that glory applied to long-standing greasy spoons is strictly an American construct. And this is why I love America.

We make a quick pit stop in Lawrence, KS and I spend all of our allotted one hour at Love Garden Sounds. What a great record store. I remember loving it the first time I was there back in 2000 and even moreso each subsequent visit. I got LP's by the Treniers, Art Phag, the Plaster Caster Blues Band and some 7"s by Sex Vid, Gary Numan, Fag Cop, etc.

Our stop for the night would be the Holiday Inn in Hays, KS. Main attraction: indoor waterslide. I've already espoused my newfound love for these amusements, but when coupled with screaming Grain Belt white trash, I've got a little less love for them than I had in an empty Edmonton pool.

While originally intending to eat at the Chili's up the road, when I realized that "Saturday Night Live" would be on in 45 minutes I switched it up. I've been a fan of "SNL" for as long as I can remember and not being hip to Hula or any other online viewing platform, I just wanted to watch the shit live as it happened.

So instead Pat and I went to eat at the sports bar inside the hotel. The Stadium Club was criminally understaffed and a long look at the menu had me instantly regret our foregoing of Chili's. I ordered a French dip and steak soup. Pat got a salad (borderline rotten tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese) and chicken wings. After twenty minutes and not having even received my soup, I told Pat I just wanted to throw a twenty on the table and just walk away.

He told me to go back to my room, that he would tell them to put my food in a carry-out container and all would be fine. This put me back in my room to catch the opening sketch and having had a crush on Tina Fey since high school I was happy to see her. Pat brought me my food, I thanked him, ate it and then soon thereafter suffered a headache and diarrhea.

Denver was alright. Record store next door and I bought the Cobain: Unseen book and some import Black Lips singles. Started with a dull crowd and by the last third of the set they'd really gotten into it. I jumped into the crowd with my floor tom and beat away like some primal savage, pouring beer on it for premium Stomp-like theatrics. They liked it.

It was TVOTR's tour manager Zoe's birthday, so that somehow translated into a bunch of folks going to a strip club. One unnamed member of the party actually received kisses from a stripper and upon leaving the establishment for a (possibly) gay bar would not stop talking about how much more fun the strip club was and how they should all go back there. I did not go to the strip club. I hate those places. I'm operating on second-hand knowledge here.

In the middle of the night, completely asleep and unaware, Zack says "I'm gonna slit your fucking throat." Did I mention we share a bed? It was equally creepy and hilarious.

That morning while on the phone with someone back in Detroit, Zack was notified that Allen Iverson had just been traded to the Detroit Pistons. He was instantly in a panic, said he had to get off the phone, pulled up the Freep website, read the news and literally jumped up hooting and hollering and running around the room like he'd just seen his first ever pair of boobs.

We would leave Denver on the 3rd with that day and the following one off for driving. We'd end up in Cedar City, Utah on the evening of the 3rd, TVOTR offering us their daytime shower rooms as they had to head off to LA around midnight. Their generosity in saving us around $160 for the night was immensely appreciated and it's small gestures like that that show you a connection has been made between bands on tour.

Next morning at Starbucks and when Pat is standing next to me as I order my venti chai tea frappacino and marshmallow square the lady asks me "Will you two be together?" I reply with "This guy's creepy. I don't even know him." And as she guffaws heartily I tip her $5 for laughing at my joke.

Pat then says "I've got a $5 tip if you tell Ben he shouldn't be so mean" and so as she tells me that Pat drops Lincoln in the jar.

I counter with "There's another $5 if you tell Pat that he's been getting on everyone's nerves lately" and as she does I'd then officially tipped $10 on a $7 purchase.

Pat was fresh outta fives and asked "When have I been getting on everyone's nerves?"

"You haven't," I said. "I just wanted to have a reason to tip her again."

The middle-aged women working the counter were all aflutter and we began to talk about being on tour in a rock band and sure enough one of the ladies had grown-up in Detroit at 8 Mile and Schaefer. What a small world.

Zack later told me he was really impressed by my tip. I told him that's just how I roll.

The 3rd and 4th of November would prove to be two long driving days spent almost entirely in the van listening to satellite radio coverage of the election, switching between NPR and CNN, the entire van excited with every babble of a pro-Obama outlook and awash with profanity with any mention of the words McCain, Palin or anything rhyming with them.

These two days will always stand-out for me, first off, because we had both of them off. It'd be the first time this entire tour we'd have two days off in a row. Second, There was a palpable heft to everything happening in the world. Our jokes and goofing around aside, there was a seriousness we could not shake, everyone's heads clearly eager for the best and deeply hoping they would not have to utilize the "Disaster Plan" if the election turned unfavorable.

Most of all it felt like we were living in a strange vacuum. A little over five years ago I felt this same when we tore ass through the Midwest after ending a tour in Lawrence, KS and in some unspoken pact trying to return to Detroit before the US invasion of Iraq would begin. We made it with a couple of hours to spare and although I had a feeling the world had become a worse place that night, at least I was at home while it was happening.

So cruising into LA with election results pouring in positively was electrifying in an oddly similar way, like a race against a completely arbitrary imaginary line. Your mind starts inventing strange games when you're spending upwards of 8 hours a day in a van and trying to get to Los Angeles before the election was officially called seemed to be the one I'd invented.

Each subsequent electoral vote tallied in the Obama column had our excitement kicking up a notch. As we dropped off Ko at her hotel in Hollywood around 8pm PST, Obama was projected as winning and I felt like a heavy weight that'd been unspokenly on all of our shoulders the entire tour had been lifted. Not only had "we" won the election, but "we" had also managed to defeat that imaginary line I'd dreamed up in some moment of completely vacuous van time. Whereas years ago it felt good to be home for what seemed like the dawn of a very crucial and foreboding time, now it felt conversely great to be somewhere other than home to celebrate what is clearly the pinnacle of hope, motivation and positivity in the United States in my lifetime and most likely my parents' lifetimes too.

We celebrated with our friend Dale and his wife and 3-year-old daughter. We went to the Cha Cha Lounge, were whisked past the velvet rope straight into the club and reveled in the percentage of Seattle ex-pats occupying the room. We munched at an impossibly delicious taco truck next to a Vons supermarket parking lot. It was late at night and everything felt like it was going in the right direction.

To think that only one of us in the band failed to vote...

Monday, November 03, 2008

TVOTR Part Six: Rank Rooms and Oil Refiners...

Drive to Knoxville was sunny and refreshing. We stopped at Guitar Center where I bought sticks, a snare head and snares and then "checked-in" to our room at the Extended Stay. This was around 4 in the afternoon. We unloaded our bags and stood patiently in the lobby only to be told that our rooms were not ready.

Really? What's the recommended check-in time then? I'm sorry but you've let us down twice now, I've got not choice but to publicly declare you unfit for touring bands to lodge at.

Bijou Theater had a jovial and joking crew and it made load-in and soundcheck all the much more enjoyable. Mick and I ventured up the street, always under close watch of the Sunsphere, to the Tomato Head restaurant. While it received rave reviews from our tour/band mates, it was satisfied but not blown away. Yet at this point in a tour, any meal that's made to order, doesn't make you vomit and is warm gets a thumbs-up…so thumbs-up to you Tomato Head.

Playing rock and roll music in a seated theater (as an opener) is something I would not wish upon any of you. Stewart the sax-man from TVOTR joined us for "Underdog" and even that seemed to fail to rile the crowd. The less-than-full attendance at least made it possible for me to jump off the stage and climb on the backs of chairs to the middle of the theater and bang on my floor tom right there. Woo-hoo.

Trying to open a window later that eve at the Extended Inn and the screen popped out like some kind of ghetto fab operation. Being on the second floor, I had to have Zack outside to hand me the screen and then bend the shit out of it to get it in a shape that would prevent it from falling out again. How does this establishment survive?

First thing next morning we partake in a long-needed clean-up of the van. Did I mention I found eight different backstage towels in the van when we loaded out in Atlanta? All in various degrees of sweat-soak? And that NO ONE in the band would take responsibility for ANY of them? Like they just magically appeared? I've got a prime suspect (the one who quickly tried changing the subject when everyone else in the van solidly denied any use of the towels) but I won't divulge the name here.

Vacuuming out the van is a fun time, got to show Zack how much of his crap was laying out in the open in the van and amidst the re-organizing and cleaning, the whole space feels cleaner and IS cleaner and has got to be an incredible boost for both mental and respiratory health.

From there off to PF Chang's. All seemed excited about this except Pat, and while everyone seemed delighted with their dish, Pat moped about his $18 salmon not hitting the spot. Conversations earlier this year found me posing the question "Why do Baby-Boomers love the Olive Garden so much? Can't they tell it's a fucking joke? Will there be something that is looked at with similar ridicule with Gen X/Gen Y when they get old?"

In short, it was postulated that Boomers (and older) love Olive Garden because of their unlimited soup and salad. That's it. To them, that's a bargain unlike no other. And yes, there will be a restaurant that our children laugh at us for liking and it is called PF Chang's. You heard it here first.

Day-off drive and we end up in Benton, Arkansas. We did nothing else.

Drive into Texas would be note-worthy for us seeing gas priced at $1.98/gallon. Wow. With about an hour to kill in Dallas, Ko directed the van to a Whole Foods and once parked I hopped up the street to the antique mall (some cool shit, modern furniture, etc that I couldn't take with me) and Good Records.

I bought the Flesh Eaters A Minute to Live, A Second to Die and David Candy's Play Power and picked up a copy of the special-edition book copy of Spirtiualized's Songs in A+E for Ko, as she'd been looking for one.

Lakewood Theater was a cool room. Dating back to the age of the one screen neighborhood movie house, they still show films from time to time and it maintains a certain level of Art Deco design that makes it stick out from the endless blur of other rooms we've played.

I think we won over some fans.

After the show we ended up at the Lakewood Landing with some of the TVOTR guys. It was a nice "upscale dive" as per their description. Met one of the guys from the Paper Chase there and it was nice to put a face to a name I've read countless times in Kill Rock Stars email blasts.

Stayed in a Double Tree again, this time no cookies or cockroaches. Woke up early for a swimming pool shower and the outdoor pool was SO-FUCKING-COLD! I could not manage to get in any further than above my waist and upon exit my legs both felt frostbit to the bone.

Hope of visiting the Sixth Floor Museum was again dashed, this time by a stop at a WaMu. We hit the road for Houston and were looking forward to crossing another House of Blues off our list. I think once we play all of them we get a drink named after us.

Backstage at HoB was a whirlwind of Zack watching previews for the start of the NBA season and me trying to book five separate flights for our European tour. Mick wanted to go out early and to/from New York, Ko wanted to stay late, so did Zack. It was one huge clusterfuck. What was available to me on the Orbitz website the night before as roundtrip flights from Detroit to London for about $730 turned into one-stop each way flights in the upper eight-hundreds.

The rub was, when searching the Orbitz site, those flights I'd seen earlier, those highly desired direct flights where the taxes/fees were equal to the actual ticket charge, still showed up. When trying to choose them, an alert would pop up saying the fare had changed to $3500. In the span of a day or so.

As soon as I walked onstage and started the beat to "Leopardman" I was struck with a nagging headache. First time I can remember actually having to play through one. Not fun. As soon as we were done I abstained from load-out and instead finished the booking of flights, the proverbial thorn in my side.

Would be the first night I joined TVOTR for the encore percussion mayhem and with a set of sleighbells in each hand, I hardly hesitate to say that I rocked that shit.

We had booked a hotel on Priceline and we ended up at the Red Roof Inn. When Zack, Mick and I entered our room we were immediately struck with a smell that was equally overpowering parts of rotten fish and dried blood. Zack called the front desk to bitch and with no more double rooms in the building they gave us to singles. Zack, the proactive one, got his own room, you know, for the effort. Mick and I shared the other single and that merely smelled like an ashtray. Red Roof Inn…never again.

We got into Austin early with the express intent of getting some band photos with Zack. Sitek had some photog friends who were up to the challenge so between our time spent behind the stage at Stubb's and underneath a stylish bridge near a jogging path, I think we got some useable shots.

Free food from Stubb's kitchen was served amazingly quick, but with the listed prices (that I didn't have to pay) I thought my serving would be a little larger. Nevertheless, the brisket was outstanding and the mashed potatoes and mac'n'cheese were spot-on as well. It was all served with amazing quickness…I ordered, sent a text message, and by the time I was done with my text, my plate was in front of me. Now that's service.

Stubb's outdoor space is massive…the capacity is listed at 2200 and in that space is just looks like a never-ending sea of bodies. They were packed tight up front for our set and they did not disappoint. I hopped down into the middle of it all and banged on my tom for a bit and had fun doing it.

We had to leave almost immediately after our set, but not before Zack donned a gingerbread man costume and surprised the TVOTR dudes during "Golden Age", the costumed, dancing equivalent of John McCain, unable to lift his arms over his chest. It had me wondering…if I was at the show, didn't know any better, and saw someone in a gingerbread costume hop on stage and start dancing, would I think it was funny?

My honest answer is, I think it would be even MORE funny if I was not expecting it.

We hit a rest stop outside of Austin with a Subway in side. The sandwich artist has zombie make-up on and his nametag reads "Vampire" and solely because of his enthusiasm in character, was able to convince to get a 12" (instead of a 6") and to switch from my standard Italian BMT to the cheaper, healthier, less-hammy Spicy Italian. I wish there was a tip jar, because I would've gladly dropped a $20 in for that kid.

We drove five hours after the show and when we picked an exit with hotels we stopped at four before we finally found one with vacancy. The Best Western never disappoints. I stayed up so I could catch the early end of breakfast. I walked down in my standard breakfast uniform (zipper boots, no socks, soccer shorts, t-shirt) and walked into a room full of manly men. Ugh.

I was figuring someone would call me "faggot" and had no proper response prepared. While I was waiting for my succulent waffle to finish cooking, I realized there were no empty tables. I'd have to sit with one of these dudes. Ugh.

The dude I ended up across from started the conversation "You from Houston?" (I was wearing my Gamblers t-shirt) and I proceeded to find out he was traveling too. Not a trucker, but one who travels to work in refineries. He was away from his wife and kids but the money was too good to pass up. He explained to me the intricacies of it all and I was fascinated. One of the other fellas on his crew spoke up too. Was displaced by Hurricane Katrina, came to Texas, found work in refineries and in three years, bought a house, paid off his truck, bought a Lexus and a Harley. He said "I thought it was the biggest secret in the world how much they pay people!"

They were genuinely genial and it was a proper joy talking to them and I felt like an idiot thinking they were going to make fun of me. It's random moments meeting people who totally destroy your expectations that brighten the day.