Wednesday, December 31, 2008

ATP Part Two: The Only Parties I'll Ever Need...

Awake the next morning and before shoving off in Dublin Zack, Pat and I pay our respects at the Phil Lynott statue. Consider our ode, to this black man, delivered.

Arrival in Galway was marked with rain, as was every other thing we would do for the three days we were in Irish land. Club provided an apartment around the corner, we dropped off our bags there and caught our breath before heading back for soundcheck.

My main memory of this apartment will be having tracked dirty water onto the hardwood floor and not caring about cleaning it up, as there was no matt to wipe my heels on anyway.

Post check we sit around and bask in the glory of free internet at the club. Ventured across the street for a medium pepperoni pizza that was satisfying. Opening band Disconnect4 wasn't my cup of tea and for the 25 or so people there the Dirtbombs were only vaguely theirs.

Post-show rainy load-out and then back to the apartment where Zack, Pat, Ko and I watched a reality show about producing porn movies, "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" and the VH1's "Supergroup" all while downing orange juice and Cadbury chocolate (me) or 3/4's of a big bag of Doritos (Pat).

Woke up early to shower and the joy of having my own room that night was that I also had my own shower. Turn on the faucet and let it run to get the hot water flowing…after twenty minutes it's apparent there's no hot water and the extremity of the cold water (read: biting) means I won't be showering this morn.

Breakfast at Subway, spicy Italian. Worldwide consistency must be admired in a franchise.

I saw approximately two blocks of Belfast. The club was a decent enough place and after soundcheck we checked into our hotel a block away. With absolutely no energy, we nap for the two hours before our set. We play swell enough to warrant an encore, but just barely.

Straight back to the hotel and watching Ewen McGregor's Long Way Down continent-spanning motorcycle trip through Africa that is truly inspiring and interesting and makes me feel that any complaining I have about touring is nothing compared to what these guys have gone through. See also Austin Vince's extraordinary (and earlier) documentaries Terra Circa and Terra Firma. In fact, I need copies of those too if you're looking to cross me off your Christmas list.

Early lobby call at 6:15 so we can make the ferry. All goes well and I space out on the boat while listening to the soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz and I don't recall much else 'til we arrive at the Faversham after dark.

The club was a step above most other English spaces, with attached restaurant, free internet it was seemingly constructed to actually be a performance space. How uncommon. Backstage was ill-lit and crowded, but had a good talk with the Hipshakes (last-minute add-ons to the gig) before they did their high-energy, mid-Nineties Midwest-style garage punk rock. They're released more records I can keep track of and they will only get better with age.

I stayed backstage for thee Vicars, but was told they ended their set by all piling on top of each other, as if we needed to top it.

The first run of the set was not very good…there's been a weird drop-out on one of the strings on Zack's bass and it happens at the oddest and most infrequent times. Mick bungled the intro to "Underdog" and Zack's mic wasn't on for the intro to "Ode to a Black Man". I think there was a string broken somewhere.

At that point, we could've just as easily dialed it in and I'm sure the crowd would not have known any better. We trudged through and it got easier, but by no means a fantastic performance. We redeemed ourselves with a particularly spirited encore which found both drumsets on the dance floor, facing each other with bass drums abutting, rolling off the lilt of "Granny's Little Chicken" to a suddenly juvenated (there was nothing "re" about it) crowd. We'd salvaged it. Yipee.

Stayed that night at some guest house with Rockdentist crashing on the floor. Woke early for breakfast, was told I was too late. Couldn't find bath towels, only once the front desk handed me some did I see the ones in our room (and why they weren't located in the bathroom is beyond me). Password for the Internet didn't work. They made all of us breakfast late as we'd been misinformed as to the time…I rocked beans and toast and jam and orange juice.

Drive to Minehead would be punctuated by us dropping off former tour manager Louisa at the Sheffield train station, as she'd had tequila the night before and couldn't bring herself to make it to ATP with us like she'd planned. Conversation between Zack and I on the reasoning behind record collecting was spirited and civil.

We arrived at the festival after dark and due to my sleeping habits, I wouldn't see daylight at Minehead at all during my time there. We walked into the main room just in time to hear the 1983 version of the Melvins finish their set. Big Business followed them the inevitable momentum loss of blowing an amp, I enjoyed watching them.

We played next and our performance was, in my opinion, flawless. I think we managed to win over some metalheads, which is always an accomplishment.

After breakdown/load-out, we made way to our respective chalets. I don't know what image that conjures to the British, but for me it means a stand-alone cabin with a quaint fireplace, made of wood, somehow related to skiing. At ATP, your chalet resembles a Super 8 motel, one unit tacked next to another in a long line of ticky-tacky little boxes. Apartment, maybe, chalet…come on.

After a hearty beef stew meal at the artists' food compound, made way to check out the bands. The Locust was completely unlike anything I could ever see myself listening to…with costumes. Isis was equally as uninteresting. The two minutes I watched of White Noise looked not to have any qualities resembling intriguing.

Excited for the Meat Puppets, once they started playing I instantly reminded myself "oh yeah…they're like acid country or something." The highlights, not only of the night, but what I'd assume to be their entire catalog, were "Oh Me", "Plateau", "Backwater" and "Lake of Fire."

Discerning eyes will say "But Ben, those are the only Meat Puppets' songs you know." And to that, I cannot argue. But the reason I know them is because those seem to be only songs of theirs that do not have a 3-minute long, noodle-y guitar breakdown tucked smack dab in the middle of something enjoyable. Those four songs are perfect in their succinct, clear and digestible presentation and I didn't mind sifting through their other (read: long) songs to hear them.

I was encouraged by Coady from the Melvins to come and join Porn onstage for their big, noisy finale…to just grab a drum and just start banging sort of thing. He also passed on the hot tip that Thurston Moore would most likely be joining them as well. Hot shit.

Unluckily, my pass only granted me backstage access (or stage access, I guess) to the big room upstairs while Porn was playing the small room downstairs. I had no way to get ahold of anyone to sneak me in, so instead I watched enviously as Thurston jammed drum sticks underneath his bass strings. Sigh.

I was really geeked to catch Os Mutantes. Once I got upstairs to see them I was immediately smacked with the aura of a bad 1970's Las Vegas review. Lots of flashy costumes, bad sound, possible plastic surgery and music that was completely unfamiliar to me found me lasting no more than four songs. Had I the patience to wait another hour and twenty minutes to see "Bat Macumba" and/or the other hit (or if they just put them earlier in the set) I'm sure I'd have been satisfied. Why Sergio Dias' guitar was not the loudest thing in the mix was also befuddling…his fuzztone single-handedly shook the foundation of the Brazilian establishment in the 1960's. His guitar mixed so low was akin to asking Jimi Hendrix to play acoustic.

Skipped out to the cinema to catch Salo as had been recommended by some friends years ago. Let's just say it's not really a rah-rah party time movie. I watched no more than ten minutes before scooting out of there. Spent the rest of the night watching Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. and Schwartzman in Spun and didn't fall asleep until around 5:45am.

I woke up at 5pm and loved it.

Walked in just in time to catch the Melvins set. What a blistering, bad-ass statement as to who's the boss. They focused mainly on shit from the past two albums, save for a sludge-tastic version of "Eyes Flies", and it really warmed my heart. They owned that stage.

The most fun thing about their set was the rest of the Dirtbombs getting to watch them. Ko and Zack had never seen them before, Pat not in 15 years or so. I honestly wouldn't peg ANY of them to like the show, but when I met up with them it was such an uplift to hear ALL of them gush about how much they loved it. The Dirtbombs, as a band, love the Melvins as a band and unanimously agree that they were the best performance of the weekend.

I was really excited to see the Butthole Surfers. I think most people in the room were, but for anyone who never saw them live the first time around it was probably solely based on Michael Azzerad's genius chapter dedicated to them in "Our Band Could Be Your Life." If ever was a piece of writing that could instantly make one adore a band, that is it.

After reading I searched out their early work religiously and when telling a friend I'd recently gotten into them, received the reply "Are into acid now too?"

They were old and boring live and didn't play any songs I recognized. I was hoping for at "Sweet Loaf" at least, but instead just got bad 80's freak rock. The performance soiled my once-high opinion of them. I wish I had not watched them.

I was equally as unimpressed by Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. I didn't think I would recognize any of their songs, but nothing about their performance had the smallest hint of captivation. It was more going-through-the-motions. Lydia Lunch, whom I had perceived to be this razor-sharp, effete queen of the No Wave scene instead came off as a surly, foul-mouthed Jersey housewife cursing out the referee at her son's soccer match.

Back at the Super 8 for dinner (Chinese beef and rice) and spinning records with Rockdentist. Was a good time just laying about not worried about the schedule as there was nothing else that eve I wanted to see, although felt a need to try and check out the Soul Savers with some of the Spiritualized band doing time there.

Instead, I fell asleep. Woke up and Zack, Rockdentist and I ventured to Crazy Horse. En route we were warned of a house gig by a group dubbing themselves Bad Guys, right down the block from our room. The badly British dance party at Crazy Horse was laughable. Points for dropping Saul Williams' "List of Demands" and was cool to chat with Manish from MOJO for a second.

We left quickly, poised to check out the house party. We ran into Jared from the Melvins and told him to follow. By the time we got to the room there were a good Pied Piper amount following. We walked into a solidly packed room where a drummer, guitarist and singer were playing for about twenty people. I was slowly able to get further and further in as people filed out.

I quite liked the music they were playing…the guitarist especially with wicked fuzz leads taking control of it all. After a bit people started to climb in through the window and someone stepped on the plug for the amplifier in doing so, rendering the guitar done for the night.

While dudes fruitlessly tried to fix the plug, someone plugged in an Ipod and started jamming AC/DC. Zack and Jared had climbed through the window at this point and raided the kitchen. Out of nowhere, I feel myself hit by chunks of bread, thrown by those two. More and more people begin to file in through the window and what had started as a full room had quickly turned into a room with absolutely not an extra square foot to move. In a spot that would compare to the size of most people's living room there were roughly thirty freaks, just waiting for something.

Zack and Jared then began throwing handfuls of corn flakes. It seemed to degenerate into complete mayhem at that point. The drummer from Torche had commandeered the kit and began pounding out a crowd-riling rhythm that, when coupled with the background noise of the Ipod, found the room erupt into full-fledged chaos.

People crowd surfing with their bodies mere inches from the ceiling, falling into the drums, any available liquid poured onto the drum skins for maximal mid-Eighties metal video effects, taking long swigs from bottles of booze handed to them by random strangers, immediately vomiting said booze…it was so retarded and exciting and foreign at the same time that all I could do was sit there wide-eyed, smiling, enjoying the absurdity of it all.

After a spell (was it twenty minutes? Forty-five?) it became apparent that this drum explosion would continue whether it actually should or not and our crew dispersed from the scene. I guess it would be another half-hour or so before security would finally show up and shut the thing down. Rumor was that the guys were even saying "Yeah, just come back in ten minutes, we'll have the party going again."

My time spent in the middle of that anarchy was the most fun I'd have the whole weekend and probably my entire year of touring.

With van call at 5am we didn't have much time after the house party to do much else. We packed our bags and said goodbye to Rockdentist as we filed down the long, confusing route to the van. Looking through the window of the party room as we passed by was a handful of the Bad Guys dudes surveying the damages to a table and trying to prop it up so as to hopefully momentarily fool someone into thinking everything was the norm.

Zack had apparently stopped to take photos through some windows and got separated from the rest of the group. Instead of searching us out he went back to our room and waited for us to grab him there. This took about 15 minutes in the 5am freeze. Once we'd gathered our stray little sheep, it was in the van for the interminable drive/ferry to Rotterdam.

Monday, December 15, 2008

All Tomorrow's Parties Part One: Nighting Irish...

The flights over to London were effortless. Despite the layover in Chicago (I hate indirect flights overseas) we were rewarded with a half-full flight and none of us had to sit next to each other, or anyone else for that matter. I watched most of "The Love Guru" and can't help but contemplate how much Mike Myers' star has fallen.

Baggage and customs went off almost too easily…as if someone was making everything particularly carefree in hopes of sneaking up on us and suddenly requiring us to do calculus equations before allowed entry into the country. Easily found Matthew, our new tour manager over here, and made way to the storage space in Finchley to pick up our equipment.

The dark, dank garage is just as I remembered it…dark and dank. We had trouble remembering what gear, particularly guitar amplifiers, we'd used back in June, but figured that out fairly easily. Of more concern and importance was availability of only one drum set. We'd distinctly left two sets of drums and two assortments of hardware and now there was merely one. We'd later find out the problem, so often the person I look to point a finger at when things go sour in my life: Ben Swank.

So despite Swank's having taken the drums we'd planned on using we sorted things out. Matthew offered up the use of a drum set that was just sitting at his house. Seeing as we had to go back to his home in Sheffield anyway to pick up our merch, this was a relatively quick and easy solve. On our way there, Matthew asks if we like Vitamin Water.

"Yeah, why do you ask?"

"Well, I've got about ten cases of it stacked up in my living room"

With the reality of not having to pay to pay for any V-dubs for the next two weeks it became apparent very early on that Matthew rules.

From his crib in Sheffield to the streets of Bangor and Royal Tandoori curry restaurant. I indulged in chicken korma and garlic nan bread and 'twas heavenly. Pat commented that his chicken tikka masala was the best he'd ever had. We all lay heavy, heavy praise at their doorstep.

We'd crash that night at the Travelodge in Holyhead. Zack and I inexplicably found ourselves watching Samuel L. Jackson's film "SWAT" and after a brief period were physically unable to change the channel. Upon the film's climactic end (SPOILER ALERT: the good guys win) I doze off into dreamland around 11pm.

I awake again at 3:30am and will not be able to fall back asleep before we leave at 7:30am. I lay and stare at the ceiling for an hour, spend another two writing and killing time on my laptop, then spend another hour hoping I may at least get some ounce of sleep before we shove off on the early morning ferry.

I would get no sleep and the ferry would be very anticlimactic, other than Pat's mild hallucinations from the motion of the waves. We arrived in Dublin about 11am with ample time to kill and I led Pat and Zack to the string of record shops I remember finding when in town with Stoltz back in 2006.

I dig Euro shops and their propensity for stocking bootlegs. I thought long and hard about a 2xLP Nirvana boot Seattle Sound Sounds Great (who's name had weirdly been in my heard during part of my two hours of staring at the ceiling the previous evening) but decided against it as I couldn't see myself listening to the thing more than once. But the idea of a vinyl bootleg, to me, seems so counter-intuitive and backwards that I couldn't help but feel like I NEEDED to have it.

I also passed on the bootleg pressing of the White Stripes "Jolene" 7" as I thought 15 euro was a lot to be handing over to out-and-out pirates.

We walked up the block and found ourselves eating at Gallagher's Boxty House. I'd commented that I'd wanted to have some traditional Irish food, Pat recommended the trad seven course meal (a six-pack of Guinness and a potato) but instead we mange on boxty's. I'd understood them to be sort of like a burrito or a crepe…I ordered the Gaelic boxty and that had steak and mushrooms in some rich gravy-type sauce.

The confusing part for me was that the "boxty" bread or pancake or whatever you want to call it, was merely folded over and placed on top of the meat. Nothing was stuffed inside, it wasn't cooked all at once and frankly, its taste didn't seem to match up with its 20 euro price tag.

Unsatisfied, I reluctantly asked for the dessert menu. The sticky toffee pudding was calling my name…not only does the acronym "STP" rule when used for anything other than in-hindsight shitty 1990's alternative bands, but each word individually is something I really enjoy, so coupled together, it was a no-brainer.

Served with a dollop of cream and a side of ice cream, this hot structure of some bread/toffee concoction with a wisp of sugary sauce zig-zagged over it was, by far, the richest and most delectable dessert that I have had in the past ten months of touring. It clearly made up for the lackluster boxty and I wished that I had just ordered three servings of STP as I would've been a much more satisfied customer.

Pat didn't like his boxty either, but his cheese plate dessert, like my STP, also remedied his insufficient main course. Zack got grilled onions/mushrooms and soda bread and enjoyed that just fine.

Feeling invigorated by the glorious end to my meal, I marched back to Borderline Records and ponied up the plastic to get that bootleg Stripes single. Good food can make one change their position on just about anything, don't you think?

Checked into the hotel at 2pm and because the official check-in time was 3pm, had to pay a 10 euro service charge which makes absolutely no sense. The room is sitting there, empty, ready for us to use, what is the reason for charging an extra fee for us to get in there? I call bullshit on you Travelodge of Dublin.

With only one room ready at that time, the four of us in the band who hadn't invented garage rock took to the two twin beds pushed together and crashed hardcore. I thought it was a pretty funny example of how beat we all were, all four of us in a row, konked out, no regard or care for how little room there was to be shared between the mattresses…we'd truly reached a state of extreme comfort (or ambivalence) towards/with each other.

Soundcheck at Whelan's was the most comfortable I've felt while playing drums in recent memory. The tension of the heads, the timbre of their strike, the resonance of their decay…it all sounded (and more importantly FELT) perfect.

Chilled upstairs for a spell before hanging with Sean Earley and crew and shooting the shit. Sean had so graciously designed and printed posters for the Dublin and Galway shows and seemed pretty excited about the gig. I didn't watch the Real Junk before us, but by the time we took the stage there was a sizeable, amped crowd ready for our jam.

We played a tad sloppy. Mick broke a string during the first song and we all seemed to be suffering from some slight disconnect. As if that insight even matters because the crowd loved the shit out of the show. There was a clear affinity for songs off Ultraglide and with the only other time we'd played town being in 2002 I guess it made sense.

Zack took a magnificent spill while standing on top of Pat's bass drum during the breakdown in "Candyass" and we all had a hearty laugh at him taking out a good portion of Pat's kit, but not before Pat moved out of the way to avoid injury and then quickly reassembled the mangled bits to come in right where he was supposed to. It was almost, dare I say, poetic.

Encored with "Can't Stop Thinking About It" and "Granny's Little Chicken" and once I brought my drums onto the main floor it seemed I could do no wrong with the crowd. They adored every last thing I could muster, whether hearty two-handed snare slams posturing as a drum solo or fumbly attempts at Bonham-sized tom flams those Irish freaks made me feel like I was Gene Krupa.

After show I felt no twinge of tiredness and instead cruised the internet for a couple of hours. An email from mom hipped me to some weird celestial happenings in regards to Venus and the gibbous moon and with nothing else better to do at 5:30am, I put my shoes on in hopes of finding those heavenly bodies amidst the orange glow of Dublin street lamps.

Up and down the street, foraying into an alley or too all proved fruitless. Back at the hotel and roof access was apparently restricted by "Emergency-Only" alarmed doors. I ventured to a section of our floor that was under renovation and snuck into an eerily empty open-doored room with hopes of scoping the moon from the window. I had to precariously climb over some boxes and tools to even get to the window, but had no luck in finding any special skyward occurances.

I guess the point of it all was that at least I'd tried. I've never really shown interest in eclipses or anything of that sort, but as I hope is clearly apparent by reading here, more often than not it's the journey, not the destination, that you remember.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

TVOTR Part Ten: Finale...

Arrival at Jupiter Hotel was late and through some possibly illegal methods, I discover that the Breeders are lodging there that evening as well.

The Ben Blackwell of 2002 in this situation would have shit his pants followed immediately by the cleaning of said shit pants and a surreptitious casing of the joint to find which room Kim Deal was staying in. Once I determined what room, I would nervously stare at its door for a half-hour before slipping a Dirtbombs CD accompanied by a hand-written note underneath. My heart rate would rise. I would feel like I'd accomplished something.

The Ben Blackwell of 2008 was tired and went to sleep.

Woke up early to enjoy as many of the Portland delights as possible. Voodoo Donuts delivered with its trusty, yummy morning goodness (a cruller and a bacon-covered maple log) and an exploratory visit into Powell's was nice and quick and left me prepared for later.

Would spend time walking dogs and waiting in the parking lot of BMW repair shop to finish the replacement of a broken headlight all while sitting on the concrete and discussing the individualistic perils and pet peeves of the touring musician. Grilled cheese lunch at the restaurant attached to the Jupiter was sufficient.

After lunch I was dropped off at Powell's. I picked up three books in the 33 1/3rd series…DAYDREAM NATION, KICK OUT THE JAMS and the self-titled Ramones record. I also got a book about the cultural history of blue jeans, another about the influx of amateur content creators and the supposed negative effect it's having on culture, vis a vis blogs and other new media (a text Mick dubbed "reactionary"), the thick, non-Stevie Chick Sonic Youth bio and a New York Times almanac-type tome called their "Guide to Essential Knowledge."

Was surprised they did not have a copy of Sugrue's ORIGIN OF THE URBAN CRISIS and still need to grab a copy for myself.

Walked to Berbati's for soundcheck and after that partook in a healthy debate about documentarians and their possible love/detachment from their subjects, in regards to people like Rodney King, Errol Morris, Michael Moore and others. After an entire month of relentless Ian Mackaye, vegan, straight-edge and "new guy in the band" barbs, it took my questioning of Zack's pronunciation of "Truman Capote" (which, to me, sounded like "Truman Compote") for him to finally go off.

It seems the hazing is finally complete.

Little Claw opened and was glad to see them. Wasn't expecting the violin and wish there were a tad more people to see them, but I enjoyed it and that's all that matters. Didn't watch as much of Eat Skull as I should've, but it seemed like the line-up was, barring one person, completely different from the one I'd seen in Detroit in September.

While not expecting much from the show I think all of us in the band were pleasantly surprised. It seemed the crowd in Portland had come to dance. Such is a beautiful sight from the stage. We'd forgotten that when headlining our own shows, as opposed to opening for other groups, people actually know what they're in for and have showed up (usually) expressly for your performance. It's a nice thing to be reminded of every once in awhile.

While loading out after the show made my second trip of the day to Voodoo Donuts and bought an Old Dirty Bastard…a chocolate donut with bits of Oreo cookie on top and some peanut butter (as a topping? Filling? I cannot remember) and it might be the best donut I've had there yet. Zack was excited about vegan donuts available at 2am.

Breakfast the next morn at the hotel restaurant was scrumptious and crowded and still left me with an overwhelming desire to play the Doug Fir lounge downstairs. Made a third visit to Powell's after that and bought 33 1/3's IN THE AEROPLANE OVER THE SEA.

Drove straight to the club, Chop Suey, in Seattle and enjoyed the fact that I could order Chinese food from a little kitchen situated inside the club. I thought the meal was tasty but my bowels seemed to disagree a little while later. Has anyone ever followed these "eat right for your blood type" recommendations? Just now in life I've begun to realize that particular foods have an adverse effect on my insides and that maybe I could prevent it.

Didn't watch the opening acts and instead spent time catching up with Henry from Chunklet who happened to be in town promoting his new book "The Rock Bible." We, as a band, bought four copies. Ko had apparently already received one for free. He also came up with the single best Zach joke yet.

Q: What's the difference between a straight-edge vegan and a bucket of shit?

A: You can at least party with a bucket of shit.

This after having met Zach for all of five minutes.

The show in Seattle was even more good-time-dancing-fun-vibes. For the encore I brought my drums onto the floor and riled up the crowd with pale (Dale) Crover imitations. To end it all, I grabbed my floor tom and threw it head-side down onto my ride cymbal, intending to puncture the drum skin with an exciting boom. While it failed to "boom" as much as I would've liked, I made a quick exit and went to catch my breath backstage.

While sitting backstage I heard pained moans coming from the hallway. Henry, standing halfway in the door showed signs of genuine revulsion on his face and then whispered, "There's a lot of blood" to me.

As it happened, one of the workers at Chop Suey was right there with me when I'd brought my drums into the crowd to make sure no one would fuck with my set. With split-second imprecision, he managed to slide his hand between my floor tom and ride cymbal as I was marrying the two in unholy bliss.

I ventured out into the hallway and there was an adequate amount of blood…way less than Henry'd led me to believe. The tip of his forefinger was just barely still attached. He was given a cup of ice to shove said digit into in preparation for reattaching it. I was freaked out but clearly not as much as the guy who was losing blood. I apologized and asked if there was anything I could do for him, but he seemed in genuine shock and other than telling me not to worry about it, didn't have anything else to say to me.

His bosses said the club would pay for the emergency room visit and his co-workers said if he played his cards right he could get workman's comp. After he was whisked away I got everyone in the band to autograph an LP for him and everyone wrote top-notch, witty and heartfelt inscriptions to the guy. We left him a t-shirt too. I didn't know what else we could do. I truly hope he's alright and I hope he doesn't mind that I don't plan on washing his blood off my bass drum.

Met Kim from the Dutchess and the Duke backstage and went totally fanboy gushing about how much I loved everything that band has done. She was humble and gracious and almost caught off-guard about how much I liked her "faggot-y folk band." When her and Dean from the Stoltz band were looking for beer after closing time, it was an honor for me to buy them a six-pack from the bar, as two finer people in Seattle you will not meet.

Stayed at the Crowne Plaza hotel and were charged $34 to park the van overnight.

Next morn was a requisite trip to the downtown Guitar Center (me: snare wires and floor tom head, Pat: crash cymbal, others: don't know) and then plunked down the big money for a meal from Whole Foods. I focused on dessert with cheese cake AND bread pudding. My main course was orange peel chicken on a bed of rice with some tofu thrown in for kicks. I ate both desserts and barely half of the rest and with a Odwalla I'd spent approximately $21 on lunch. Damn.

Showed up in Misssoula to find that the Badlander is the same room I knew as the Ritz where the infamous Jack White birthday riot went down back in 2001. Luckily, new ownership meant there would be no repeat of that night's shenanigans.

Local openers Rooster Sauce and Victory Smokes were exactly what I'd expected of bands from Missoula. The Sauce even premiered the video for their song "Snakeskin Monkey" this night and that too was everything I'd expected for a self-produced music video for a band from Missoula.

The stage was particularly small and coupled with not having played the town in over four years found us with an absolutely manic crowd completely up-front and in our faces. What upon booking felt like an unnecessary roadblock on our route home would prove to be the best of our headlining shows of this run…all the genuine excitement and dancing of Seattle and Portland increased tenfold and Missoula, despite what one may think, proved it can rock with the best of them. The encore was Zach's first-ever shot at "Granny's Little Chicken" and that devolved into Ko, Mick and I jiving in the crowd (Ko playing fuzz while I balanced her on my shoulders for a spell) and it ALL ended with me saying into the mic "Happy fucking birthday Jack."

The route back to Detroit would prove daunting. The first day of driving found us getting gas across the street from, I shit you not, a place with signage declaring it a used COW lot. Being the beginning of hunting season and Montana being kind-of a hunting state, it was fairly common to find ourselves driving behind a pick-up truck with 12 deer legs just sticking up in the air with the bodies completely obscured from sight. Most establishments had signs saying hunters were not allowed to bring their guns inside and I couldn't imagine why that even needed to be said.

We later stopped at a gas station that happened to be on an Indian reservation and it was one of the more depressing places we'd been in recent memory. The Kentucky Fried Chicken there carried only a bare-bones menu (scuttling my plans to rock a Famous Bowl) and the cash register sported a hand-written sign saying, in pen, "No credit cards…machine is messed up." The chicken strips were more breading than chicken and there were no fewer than three public service posters in view touting the dangers of methamphetamine use.

At the same time, Zach made a sullen declaration of not being able to dream in this establishment and after a suitable pause, pointed to the window of the gift shop completely filled with dream catchers and said "They just keep getting caught over there." There was a picturesque sunset and across the street was an advertisement for "Cuts-the-Hair." Weird, weird times.

That evening found us staying in Chamberlain, South Dakota. We'd GPS'd a Days Inn at the exit, but noticed the West River Inn and Suites offering 24-hour pool and spa. As frequent lodgers, this is not an everyday offer, and as night owls, it was an something we had to take them up on.

The hotel didn't appear to be a chain but it was clean and comfortable and very, very inviting. While making my way to the pool, Zach said the lady at the front desk said to let her know if we'd be swimming, as she would then turn the lights off for us. Having no idea what this meant I failed to notify her and instead just walked down to the pool by myself.

The indoor, heated pool and hot tub were accented not only by a stereo system that was playing light house music (and later, breezy classical) but by a second floor reminiscent of a projection booth with no less than three club-quality lighting systems in full-effect. We had managed to find the only 24-hour disco pool in all the world and it was in South Dakota.

After requisite hand-stands and underwater stretching I made way to the hot tub and marinated in there. There was no reason a place like this should exist, yet I was reveling in it. The thin, green laser lights coalescing into a circuit of geometric patterns was particularly spellbinding.

After ample time boiling in the tub I made back into the pool and stood in the middle, motionless, focusing on the colors and patterns the lights formed on the floor of the pool, benefiting from the unpredictable refraction caused by the still, chlorinated four feet of water. This is as close as I come to getting stoned, meditating or finding any other higher state of (un)consciousness.

(I later surmised that the only logical reason to have such a set up for a pool was that they probably host orgies there)

Having been away from home for so long, we'd planned to drive the remaining fifteen hours back to Detroit while only stopping for food, gas and pee breaks. And through the remainder of South Dakota, Wisconsin and Illinois this proved fine. It wasn't until we'd reached Indiana that shit got messy.

We reached a portion on I-94 where the road was just closed…all cars being forced to exit and most of them winding up at a Flying J Travel Plaza trying to plan alternate routes. Our GPS system helped us to get to the next open entrance ramp and once back on the freeway we were literally in a caravan on a road that was a sheet of ice with a flashing-lights police cruiser as the pace car.

While the icy conditions of the road became somewhat less daunting, the snow storm at that point had reached white-out conditions just around our crossing of the Michigan border. It was a nightmare…all of us had hopes of sleeping in our own beds that night and with home not even three hours away we could almost taste it. At the same time, we could not see more than a couple of feet ahead of our van in these conditions.

None of us wanted to stop, yet we all knew there was no other option.

We exited in Sawyer, Michigan and got rooms at the Super 8. Once checked in Zack (he of hole in his canvas shoe) and I trudged through the snow to eat at the 24-hour Country Pride restaurant at the truck stop across the street. At this point, the snow had ceased.

With nothing but time we had a long, languorous meal/conversation before heading back to grab some sleep. We'd all agreed to leave at 8am as getting home earlier was getting home better.

7:50 rolls around…Zack opens the curtains and coldly says "Fucking hell."

It seemed since we'd fallen asleep another four inches of snow had fallen. Thoughts of not making it home THAT day briefly entered my mind and I trembled. We loaded the van and Pat skillfully and cautiously maneuvered the van through more blizzard and icy road conditions until that spot where I-94 jags eastbound and we were free from the immobilizing grip of lake-effect snow. We would be home in no time and home ain't no time at all.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

TVOTR Part Nine: We Are Apparently Pimps and Prostitutes Too...

We stopped at some desert town on the Grapevine. Woke up in the morning and paid the one-armed man at Subway before hitting Starbucks for a milkshake that they besmirch by with the name Frappuccino.

The Warfield is a dignified place of performance and everything ran smoothly, bar Pat in a shouting match with some club worker about the guestlist. For our last show with TVOTR we played strong and floor-tom in-the-crowd/deconstructionist-stage-load-out seemed to really impress the crowd.

While cleaning out my bag in our dressing room between sets I happened upon a handful of "Fart Bombs" I'd bought at a corner store in Providence. Having not utilized any of the ammunition on the entire trip, I figured then was as good a time as any.

I cracked the bag of chemical as sealed in a gaudy mylar packaging. The two previously separated substances would soon join and commingle in an unholy pong. After starting the process, I blindly tossed the packet into the adjoining room. It landed at Mick's feet, he surveyed it curiously and it erupted with an inauspicious "pop" in his face.

While I would in any other circumstance consider myself a tomfooler of the utmost caliber, I can, with the joy of hindsight, offer that stinkbombing your own dressing room is a faux pas as gauche as recreating a silent film-era slapstick and having the protagonist slip on a plantain peel.

Everyone backstage from the TV on the Radio dudes, our guests, the security guards and the somewhat abrasive Jon Dwyer all found time to comment on the overpowering stench. It was clearly in bad form on my behalf, but, to be fair, I made sure to sit there throughout the tang's duration rather than escape to more fragrant pastures.

Joined TVOTR for their encore with the rest of the Dirtbombs and reveled in the massive percussive happening. Snuck out without saying goodbye to most and after-the-fact felt it was a tad impolite.

Ko would find herself on Danzig's tour bus later that evening. Clearly she wins.

The next day would prove to be a scheduling miracle…a day off in San Francisco, the likes of which we'd only dreamt of. Staying with Kelley Stoltz and he'd bought me half-a-dozen donuts as he revels in the fact that they're my breakfast food of choice. We met up with Mick and made time cruising the shops on Valencia.

After stocking up on postcards at the McSweeney's storefront, gawking at the taxidermy next door at Paxton's Gate and picking up a package containing a Kevin Ayers' solo record at Stoltz's PO box we made our way to the myriad of record shops in the Haight.

First to Rooky Ricardo's…I stocked up on pins of old record labels (Fortune, Palmer, others) and bought an LP that was visually reminiscent of the first Stripes' album cover. From there to some other record shop where I bought nothing, then onward to Amoeba, the temple.

Bought CD copy of the Dion album that was recommended as "sounds like Spiritualized" (produced by Phil Spector), the Cool Kids full-length, used copy of the Langley Schools CD, the Figures of Light CD (FINALLY!) and possibly other things that've since slipped my mind. Had good chats with all the requisite employees too…Tom Lynch, Shayde Sartin, Brock Whateverhislastnameis.

From there to Burma Superstar. Crowded as all get-out on a Monday night, this grub was the real deal. The tea leaf salad was enjoyed by vegan, vegetarian and real-people alike at our table. I personally delighted in my Nan Gyi Dok. Dining with Stoltz and his star-power found us enjoying complimentary dessert. The establishment gets utmost praise from all in our dining party.

Then down the street to Green Apple Books…I finally cross the LP copy of Beck's Mutations with bonus 7" and issue #6 of McSweeney's Quarterly Concern off my audio and literary want lists, respectively.

We spent downtime at a bar and caught up with various Stoltz band members while watching assorted sports highlights.

Stoltz drove us up to a hill overlooking the whole of San Francisco, a twinkling vista that made the burg seem smaller more than anything else. Zack and I soaked it in with Kel while Mick talked on the phone.

Back at Stoltz's to enjoy his "spatially inappropriate" Altec movie theater speakers and original pressings of Revolver and Black Monk Time.

The next morn we pick up Mick and him and Kel chow fish tacos while I'd early indulged in leftover donuts.

We then hit up Grooves, Kel's place of employment. I scored vinyl copies of the Flat Duo Jets' Go Go Harlem Baby and a mono copy of Mitch Ryder's Take a Ride LP. I also won some cool knick-knacks in the old-style crane-game in the shop…a slide whistle and a miniature cast of Nipper, the RCA Records logo dog.

From there back to the Haight to Groove Merchant Records that'd been closed on Monday. I got a Lorri Randolph 45 on Tri-Phi and a peculiar single by a band called Water Melon that's rambunctious weird '69-'70 rock with organ and the side "African Song" kills. After that we eat at a Pakistani (?) place in the Mission, on the same block as the Kil-o-Watt. Naan bread delicious, the rest of my meal not terribly so.

Big plan for the eve was a pizza party at Mike Gabriel's. Having attended one before, I knew what fun I was in for. Mike and his gal Jen prep with pre-portioned slabs of dough and assorted topping possibilities. Each person takes a turn assembling their own ideal pie and the rest of the party samples it with the requisite critique, ribbing and general good-hearted fun. The dough and I weren't getting along, but I still stand by my prime "How-To" example of a pepperoni pizza. Lots of stories told, records listened to and a general appreciation of life was shared by all.

Next morning Mick and I spent approximately 45 seconds inside Revolver (our distributor) to pick up copies of We Have You Surrounded on CD and LP. This is a new record as trips here usually become protracted bouts of scouring the racks for long-forgotten or mis-filed gems.

Slowly met up with the rest of the band and soon made our way out of the city.

After hours of driving and the lavatorial needs of one and the lodging needs of all was best squelched by a stop at a PETRO truck stop in Medvale, just inside the Oregon border. I made quick way to the bathroom, followed shortly thereafter by Pat who says "Ben…you should buy a "Greatest Hits" CD."

"Why?" I respond.

"Just do it," he says with a smile.

As I head back toward the register, I see a cardboard CD display case for the "Playlist: The Very Best of…" series of green-friendly repackaging of certain Sony-related artists' greatest hits. On top of the four-foot display was a mini billboard topper, listing the series title and its affordable $9.98 price. But neither the name nor the price could obscure the mind-boggling jaw-drop of seeing a picture of THE DIRTBOMBS on this advertisement.

Mick spotted it first. He was buying something at the register when his eyes caught the picture (one of our silhouette promo shots for...Surrounded) and he just stood there dumbfounded. When pressed by the cashier, Mick flipped the whole display around for the worker to see and said, "You'll never believe this…but that's ME!"

Zack nimbly negotiated the exchange of one CD copy of …Surrounded for the portion of the unit depicting his bandmates while we all just sat there kinda befuddled. No, they were not selling any Dirtbombs records at the stop. No, the records were not bootleg. No, no one in the band or at the label or even the photog had signed off on this.

We made a pledge to stop at any more PETRO's we saw the rest of the trip (with hopes of procuring more of the ads) and we saw not a one. A call to our record label and a call from him to friends in the photo licensing biz were encouraging, but apparently without the Sony logo anywhere on our visage, we've apparently been pimped without hope of retribution.

So here's a call to you faithful readers: If anyone can shed ANY light on this situation, if you know who does the layouts for the "Playlist" in-store advertising, if you find any more instances of this pic

at PETRO (or other) truckstop CD displays, if you steal/buy/barter for its possession or can just simply explain what-the-fuck is going on, please let us know and you will be rewarded HANDSOMELY by the band.

It's not that I don't like Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash or Heart…it's just that I never in a million truckstops thought that the band's picture (and to a degree, my image) would be used to shill products without any regard for consent or permission. Does this mean we're big time? Once we start getting screwed over? Surreal does not even begin to describe the situation. Two weeks later and it's still completely flummoxing and aggravating all at the same time.

At the same stop, Ko was utilizing the free WiFi to try and book hotels for the night. With our sights set on Portland, we'd discussed just straight booking rooms at the Jupiter Hotel, but with their quoted price as $150 per room, per night, we decided to take our chances with Priceline.

When the $60 per room, per night option for a 2 1/2 star hotel near downtown and the convention center popped up, we were a bit skeptical. Two and a half stars? Really? The luxury of the stay would be not having to check out the first morning…oh what a deep, restful luxury it is. We threw caution to the wind, booked it and were elated to find out we'd been placed at none other than…the Jupiter Hotel.

You win this round Shatner.

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.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

TVOTR Part Five: Voodoo and Animal Shit...

Somewhere driving down to New Orleans we got caught with a counterfeit $10 bill. Shit's kinda scary…cashier came out of the gas station and said "You paid me with a fake ten" and it was confusing because I paid for the gas with band money, but bought a Vitamin Water with my own dough. The lady politely told us that she didn't have any tens in her drawer before we showed up. She handed over the offending bill and it was laughable how flimsy, fake and off-color it was. We apologized profusely and after trading her a proper Hamilton for the phony, we laughed it off.

It must've come to us at the merch table in Chicago. I wish there was a "Where's George?" for counterfeit bills. In discussing how to get rid of it (as change at the merch table, at another gas station, etc) we collectively decided to end the devastating circle and instead the piece-de-resistance now resides in the lining of our three-ring tour binder (holder of all our important contracts and deal memos) reminiscent of a sixth-grade Trapper Keeper.

Arrive in New Orleans early at the site for the Voodoo Music Festival. Showing up for a show at noon is pretty surreal. We all should have been sleeping.

We drove through the winding back roads to the Playstation stage (which doubled as an oversized Blu-Ray disc player), set-up our equipment and then were whisked away on an ever-so-swift golf cart to our very own tent, not really "furnished" moreso than a couch and a table, but there was a piece of paper on the outside that had our name on it, so we felt special.

We did a photo shoot that every band at the festival was required to do…something to be auctioned off with the proceeds going to victims of Hurricane Katrina. While sitting on a couch with a generic gray background and seeming like the whole shoot was to be a bust, I made a bold move and started to tickle Ko. Thus set off a chain reaction of tickling, slowly degenerating into an all-out manpile. The photog, happy, declared she had got her shot. Mission: accomplished.

From there back on a golf cart and onstage to run through a line check. A more prepared and quick sound crew I have not met. These guys knew what they were doing and it made us as a band step up our game. The sound in my monitors was perfect and for an outdoor festival, where complete and utter audio cacophony is the norm, that is no small accomplishment.

We took the stage at 2:45pm, right as the skies cleared up and the sun unleashed it's beating rays down on us. It was damn hot up there, sweatier than Larry Bird's jockstrap, and perplexing looking at acres of grass with attendees experiencing a clear abundance of personal space.

We took the adversity in stride and rocked the place. At the opposing end of the field, flanking the other main stage for the festival, were two massive video screens, showing the feed of the cameras fixed on us. There was a slight video delay and to watch that while performing is funny…like continuous access to the most immediate instant replay system in the world, where you wonder "hmmm…what was I doing .75 seconds ago? OF COURSE! I moved my arm to the left just a hair so I could make sure that the video was really of me and not some holographic, animatronic spectre of myself conjured by the mere name Voodoo Music Festival."

Seriously, I can't be the only person in the world who, when finds themselves on a monitor for surveillance or closed-circuit camera, does a unnecessary half-turn of the leg, hair flip, glance to the side or raise the roof as a way to just check the system, you know, make sure it's all working alright. Please tell me I'm not, I could really use the reassurance right about now.

Ended the set on top of Pat's bass drum with my floor tom in hand. With no actual ceiling above me, just wispy cerulean sky, I tossed that 16" blue satin flame Slingerland into the matching heavens and caught it with the delicacy of a guy on his first day on the receiving end at the fish flinging market. Confident, I tossed it again and with the throw being a little off, I veered off the bass drum to keep it from biffing Pat in the head.

With adroit skill I saved Pat's life from certain carnage, the only-slightly less destructive consequence was that my body took him out instead. Wiped out his hi-hat stand, his crash cymbal and his rack tom too. As it was happening, he said he was thinking to himself "no broken bones, no broken bones, no broken bones". To me, the entire thing looked like the scene in Nirvana's "Lithium" video, taken from their performance at the 1991 Reading Festival, where Cobain, with a running start, jumps whole hog into Grohl's drums and in the process dislocates his shoulder.

Luckily, with the film crew up our nostrils the entire time, I figured I'd be able to at least see how it looked to anyone who was fortunate enough to witness my floor tomfoolery. Given a DVD of the performance immediately after the set's completion, at the hotel later that night I was horrified to see that not only did the edit completely miss BOTH of my magnificent drum tosses, but instead of me completely wiping out on Pat for the second and most triumphant manpile of the day, the shot they did have was of Ko laughing at what had just happened out of frame.


After breaking down gear and toweling off the gallons of sweat, we drove the van back to our tent only to discover that it now belonged to Joss Stone. BOOOOOOOOOO. I think even the trail mix and Pepsi they'd put in there for us was gone. Out with the old, in with the new, kicked to the curb…it don't feel too hot. With dinner not served until 5:30, we killed time.

Zack and I sidled up to a Playstation for a friendly game of NBA whateverthefucktheycallit. I chose Cleveland, wanting to fully utilize the skillz of Lebaron James and Zack grabbed LA so that he could gloat "KO-BAY!" every five seconds.

It'd been awhile since I'd partook in any Playstationing and I needed a bit to get re-acquainted with the controller. Even so, it seems I'd forgotten the Left/Right buttons for each respective forefinger and thus missed out on the advantage that is "turbo".

Zack blew me away. We played 7-minute quarters and I lost by no less than 40 points. His outside game was strong and my domination in the unintentional intentional fouls/missed shots from beyond half-court tandem notwithstanding, I had fun. Upon completion Z commended me on my sticking with it for the entire duration, even though having been statistically eliminated from actually winning around the start of the second quarter. He said it showed character and that he himself would have quit long ago. I felt proud for losing with dignity.

5:30 rolled around and the wait for catering was instantly long, the serpentine chow line overflowing with everyone from festival volunteers to security guards to the artists themselves. Out of nowhere, Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 (who were shitty, but at least popular) and the lesser-cared-about (and playing Voodoo) Angels and Airwaves, is dropped off in one of them snazzy golf carts. Like it's no big thing, he cozies up to some friends/buddies/fellow douchebags toward the front of the line and slides in like it ain't no thing.

People in his position would usually just get someone else to grab their food for them, But no, this self-centered asshole saw nothing wrong with cutting in line in front of at least 70 people. WHAT-THE-FUCK? I wanted to go up to the idiot and ask him if he just didn't happen to notice everyone else waiting in line or if he thought it wasn't a big deal or what. Funnily enough, once I finally got my food, he'd already finished eating and was long gone.

Worst part about the wait was that the food was bad. The Italian sausage was barely passable and everything else was just slop. And having to stand in line for 30 minutes for it made it that much worse. I ate alone at an empty table before it filled up with college-aged volunteers excitedly discussing the minute details of a conversation one of them had with, you guessed it, Tom DeLonge. I quit.

I didn't watch any of the other bands play. This only hypothetically disappointed me if Stone Temple Pilots did "Big Bang Baby" or Wyclef Jean did ""We Trying to Stay Alive" as those are both my jams.

Before we left Joss Stone's drummer commented on how much he enjoyed our performance. That made me happy. There's hope for us yet.

Instead we trucked out early so we could make it to Atlanta in decent time. Ko was frazzled and when, in trying to ask the rest of the band a legitimate question I made some joke about "anal", she shutdown and would not say anything other than "just forget it."

I apologized for my admittedly awesome joke and tried to get her to come back to the rest of us, but she refused. It was awkward for a moment until Zack climbed on top of her and through either tickling, fear, fear of tickling or some Jedi shit, got her to laugh and open back up and all of us be a happy family again.

This will forever be known as the Zack Attack. You should be so lucky to find yourself on the receiving end of one at least once in your life.

Watched the DVD of the Voodoo performance in the hotel that night. I, among other band members, was not pleased with my appearance. Where'd that beard come from? Why didn't someone tell me I'm fat? Shit, I gots to get on that Nordic Trak soon.

Little Five Points in Atlanta was bumping, bumping…like someone forgot to turn the hipster faucet off. The new location of Criminal Records was nice, we manged some free pizza and I grabbed vols. 2 and 3 of the Mad Mike comp series on Norton as well as the Complete Motown Singles box Volume 9 (1969) with the lovely touring musician discount.

From there I walked around the corner and in trying to avoid what appeared to be some doctrine pusher along the lines of (but not) a Hare Krishna, I stepped in dog shit. Kindly enough, the fellow warned me about it AFTER I'd squashed my heel in it. I dragged my sole along the brick sidewalk and eliminated any sign/smell of the offense.

Not sixty seconds later, I'm standing outside a vintage clothing store with Zack when I am alarmed by the sudden appearance of black spots on my arm. Confused, I look at Zack and ask, "Did I just get shit on by a bird?" He replied in the affirmative and then told me to stand still as he would shake the fecal matter out of my hair. All that managed to do was get bird shit on him. I found the whole thing completely hilarious.

Off to the Tabernacle and we passed by Martin Luther King Jr's birthplace and the church where he served as pastor. Was bummed we didn't have time to check them out any moreso than from the van. Club used to be a House of Blues and still held all the requisite folk art and general good club amenities like big individual dressing rooms, private one-person bathrooms, catering, etc, etc. Before HOB it used to be an actual church and that's usually a good sign.

Did an interview before the show in my socks. Tried to grab some sleep during TvoTR but was unsuccessful. Saw Janelle Monae backstage, but didn't know who she was until I cracked open an old ish of GQ in the van a few days later and asked "Wasn't this girl at the Atlanta show?"

After the show we made it to the monthly dance party in the basement of the Highland Inn. What a fun, vibrant and completely impossible in Detroit gathering it was. We'd missed Greg Cartwright perform with a last minute Reigning Sound (including onetime Dirtbomb Adam Renshaw on drums) but instead enjoyed him spinning records. It was late but there were still kids on the dancefloor and the fact that they seemed into 60's psych records was encouraging for Atlanta, depressing for Detroit. I guess these are costume affairs and tonight's theme was Warhol characters and people seemed to take that shit seriously. Why would this never work in Detroit? Is funk night the only DJ'ing that gets hipsters dancing? Is ATL just experiencing the positive aftershocks of Cartoon Network/Adult Swim slowly taking over the city?

Talked with Jared from the Black Lips briefly. He said their new album is done, whereas when I saw him last, in July, he said they would be recording it themselves and "taking their time." Them boys are funny.

After slight confusion with street names involving the words "peach" and "tree" (in Atlanta? Really?) we checked into the Double Tree in Bucktown and had to share a mere three chocolate chip cookies we'd received on check-in.

Zack and I flipped the channels between "Knocked Up" and "Deal or No Deal" with Zack consistently criticizing EVERY decision the young pregnant contestant made on "Deal."

"She's too greedy"
"This is where everyone blows it"
"I can't believe she just did that"

It was hilarious to see how INVOLVED Zack got with the entire show. With two suitcases left, $1 million and $200k where the contestant is given the choice of switching briefcases, Z opened up

"Shit…that's fucked up they offer that."

And finally, when the contestant became the first to ever win $1 million, Zack admitted that, clearly, his critiques would be probably be best-leveled at another contestant.

Then out of nowhere, I spot something crawling up the wall out the corner of my eye. I exclaim dramatically (but not too loudly) "What the fuck is that?"

Upon closer inspection, we had a 2" long cockroach visiting our room at the 4-star Double Tree. Like a pair of 6-year-olds holding an old mayonnaise jar with a twig and some grass shoved inside, we deftly caught the offensive insect. Once imprisoned, I asked Zack what we should do. He excitedly replied "Let's get some free shit!"

Z hurried to the front desk and presented the bug to a startled clerk. With our rooms booked via Priceline he was not able to comp us. But he did give us five passes for free breakfast, a voucher for free parking and the code for free internet. Oh yeah, Zack was in his underwear when he negotiated this.

In hindsight we realized it naïve to take FOOD as compensation for discovering a cockroach in an establishment. Nevertheless, as Ko and Zack and I can attest, that Sunday breakfast buffet was tasty and worth our momentary stint as D-level Bindi Irwin's to get it.