Sunday, May 25, 2008

USA Part Four: I Don't Want to Rhyme No More

We got into Atlanta early and spent time tramping around Little Five Points. I got the touring musician discount (20% off) at Criminal Records and took full advantage of said unpromoted promotion to purchase THE COMPLETE MOTOWN SINGLES VOL. 7 1967 at a relative steal.

From there I cleaned out some 7"s with potential from Wax'n'Fact's dollar bin. Two totally ghetto girls asked for the new Editors record and caught me off-guard. I hit up the vintage clothing stores nearby, but had no luck.

I was unpleased with my meal at the Earl before soundcheck. Met up with Henry Owings from Chunklet and went with him to some Mexican place. In front of us in line was some sort of radio promotions team. One of them handed Henry and I each a $5 bill and a pocket calendar for whatever station they were shilling. Hen thought it was a put-on…that the bill was fake and had some Bible quote on it. But no, shit was the real deal. When the girl handed us the dough, she said "(whatever radio station) would like to contribute $5 to your meal today" and that messed me up, because I'd already eaten and wasn't planning on ordering anything.

So do I give the money back because I'm not eating? Do I order something anyways and save it for later? Do I literally pass the buck to the dude behind me in line (to whom the promotions girl apologized for not having money for) because he's obviously hungry? I quickly figured a compromise and ordered a large lemonade. I made money on the deal in the end, which was nice.

I missed Thee Crucials, but can't remember if it was because I was asleep or something else. I can't remember Kelley either.

Our set was pretty damned fun. I did the mic in the mouth thing and started faux-rapping about Rob's House Records, the pre-eminent Atlanta 7" imprint. Then I just started screaming my balls out, pulling air from every last recess of my lungs to bellow and shriek into the microphone. I rolled around on the floor of the club until my hair ended up underneath someone's boot, leaving me physically unable to move anywhere else.

Amidst our Japanese-like end-of-the-show noise jam, I breathed a nugget of genius to the crowd that may just be the title of our next singles comp. I said "We can do this for a lot longer than you can deal with it." And although we didn't totally clear the room, we sent A LOT of motherfuckers for the door. There's something oddly satisfying about doing that.

I guess it seems like anything can pass for entertainment or music nowadays, so as to do something so strong or vile or annoying enough to make people who PAID for entry to leave the room of their own volition is a remarkable feat. I cherish it.

Not long after finishing a rewarding conversation with Trey of Rob's House Records (a label I can wholeheartedly endorse is worth picking up any of their releases indiscriminately), I picked up the blurry vision/seeing spots warning and prepared for a headache that would prove to be the second most painful one I'd experienced in my lifetime, just behind the migraine I got in second grade after the bowling league Xmas party where I was in so much pain I actually vomited.

There would be no vomit this time, just massive nausea that felt like it could lead to hurling at any minute. Also, we were driving two hours outside of town to a hotel that would shave that much time off the next day's drive, so I was left to try and remain motionless in our van in the wee hours of the morning trying to trick my brain into interpreting the pain as pleasure. Too bad that's some Dr. Spock shit that I ain't got a hold on yet.

We arrived at the hotel and Pat noticed the van was overheating. I went straight to our room, almost threw-up, then crashed to sleep big time, as the only thing that cures these tortuous headaches is some snoozing. The marquee pain had subsided by the time I awoke, but the rest of the day my head still hurt, as if it had been strained by the amount of pure pain exerted on it the previous night…yes, my headache was so strong that it had aftershocks.

So Pat woke up early to get the radiator hose fixed as a remedy to the overheating. A bunch of repair shop bullshit rigamarole went down and we were all left waiting hours (he at the shop, us still at the hotel) for a fix that should have taken next-to no time. Such is the touring life.

We got to Chapel Hill and soundchecked. Afterwards I walked in the rain to a used bookstore where I bought To Be Loved (Berry Gordy's autobiography), Berry, Motown and Me (Berry's ex-wife's autobio) and Hitmen the essential text exposing the music biz of yore for all their shady wheelings and dealings. Good scores.

Around the corner for burritos and art from vending machines. Good conversation about mail art and Ray Johnson at the club as my thoughts on how we played now seem lost to the ages.

Long-ass drive the next day to Baltimore the salty whore. All the drives tend to blend together at this point, but we got stuck in sick gridlock for two hours headed into downtown. From what I could see there was an Orioles game, a Duran Duran concert, some NCAA get-together (women's basketball finals?) and, of course, a Dirtbombs show.

We rolled into the Sonar right before doors opened, weary as hell and excited to stretch our legs. It was Ko's birthday and she was excited for it to be in the land of The Wire. Someone had their distro/traveling record store set-up so I bought some 7"s as a force of habit, some retail therapy to cope with the leftover dread of the bumper-humping traffic.

So for "Underdog" the guy's in Kelley's band put on sock puppets and stood in front of Ko and had the puppets join her for the "yeah yeah" response. She wasn't expecting it and it was nice and funny. Then our tour manager Dorien brought her a birthday cake onstage. I think Ko had a good birthday and that's a hard thing to pull off on tour.

The show was live. We hadn't played Baltimore since 2003 and even then it seemed whatever. But five years absence had uncovered some unknown dormant excitable kids who just danced their nuts off. It was so refreshing to see. Rolling Stone recently named Baltimore the best scene in the country and if the handful of freaks who showed up at our gig were any indication, I'd have to concur with Wenner's winners.

We drove after the show through to Washington DC to take full advantage of a Saturday afternoon spent there. I had hopes of going to the National Archives and checking out the veritable attic of the United States. Was bummed when I woke up in the morning to see that the Archives were closed for renovation until September and that a "best-of" their collection was available for viewing at the Air and Space museum.

The only thing I can hate more than viewing a tiny smidgen of the vast collection and resources of our country's National Archives would be seeing them alongside the fart of history in a building boring me with planes hanging from the ceiling like some Air Force-crazed 15-year-old boy with an endless supply of scale models and fishing line.

None of the other 82 museums in town floated my boat, so instead I just roamed around the area of the hotel. I called Svenonius and he directed me to some decent record stores, and as tempted as I was to flesh out my go-go collection, I failed to purchase anything.

I did, however, like the vibe of Dupont Circle, especially the people handing out the anti-Scientologist pamphleture with their faces covered for anonymity. There was the bustling 24-hour bookstore that I dug.

The show in DC was wild. I seem to remember DC being the town where I put TWO drums on my head…first my rack tom and then my floor tom over that, all while continuing to play. From there, more yelling and screaming into the mic and then moving my drums across the stage (while the band is sill playing, mind you) to set up my bass drum flush against Patrick's so that we were playing while facing each other. Grabbed Mick's guitar and started Thurston-ing out, shoving a drum stick under the strings and making all kinds of holy racket to rock out.

I ended with a headstand on Pat's bass drum and while trying to land with my legs straddling his head, took the dude out and gave both of us reason to walk off stage.

Shit was fun and it was best put by a fan who'd seen both the Baltimore and DC shows "Last night I saw one of the best rock and roll shows of my life and tonight I saw THE best rock and roll show of my life."

Monday, May 19, 2008

USA Part Three: Won't You Take a Walk With Me?

After New Orleans was a daylong day-off drive to Asheville. Sunday brunch was at Ruby Tuesday's and we feasted like kings. I indulged in the bottomless blackberry lemonade and engorged on the ribs and steak twofer. For some reason Troy didn't want Ruby Tuesday's, so he walked over to Waffle House and ate there by himself.

The drive was punctuated by short stolen bursts of sleep. Without a stereo in the van I've been pissed that I haven't brought any solid reading material, instead making do with issues of Vanity Fair and Radar and, if in a real pinch, the trashy bullshit celeb gossip rags that seem to multiply like Gremlins in our van.

Day in Asheville was spent ambling around those hippie streets. Breakfast with Mick and Pat at a nice little café where we see a guy wearing a white cloth jacket with the beginnings of a patch avalanche. As my chest pocket is filled with Cass Records logo patches for just such an occasion, I say "My man!" across the room (and let it be known, I have never used the phrase "My man!" before in my life and I have accepted the fact that I now sound like a floor salesperson at Guitar Center), say that he looks like the kind of guy who likes patches and then slap one of those 3" blue suckers in his hand. He seemed appreciative. I was glad that I had an interesting idea and instead of letting a weird nervousness block that just going up to the person, being cordial and realizing everything can work out just fine.

There were a couple of record stores I didn't buy anything at. Was tempted by a Mt. Tai 7" somewhere and can't believe that even with its Poopy Time connections that I decided not to buy it. Stupid.

There was a shitload of vintage clothing stores that were all worth my time. At Hip Replacement I bought two pair of Levi's 517's and an exemplary specimen of navy blue Sta-Prest pants as well. Throw in two pair of psychedelic tights for Malissa and I'm out of there $120 poorer. But those jeans will last me nice and long and you'd be hard-pressed to buy a lesser-quality, not-as-cool pair of NEW Levi's for $32 a pair.

Years ago I simplified my life and decided to only wear Levi's jeans. It was a process of weeding out one pair of Lee and two Old Navy that are now used for the rare painting excursion. I am in love with the fact that Levi's invented blue jeans. I love the history of the company, the evolution of their style and the perfection achieved with the 60's and 70's 517's (boot-cut) and 646's (bell-bottoms).

So when we tour, I stuff my Tumi with as many pairs of those denim demons as will feasibly fit. I seem to remember a looooong European tour a few years back where I brought at least 16 pairs of jeans with me. Yes…I own an insane amount of jeans. I'm of the mindset of "Let's not do laundry" on tour and the best way to achieve that is BULK! BULK! BULK! Naturally my t-shirt stockpile is impressive as are my underwear and sock reserves. I am nothing if not thorough and exact in my distaste of doing laundry on tour.

What I've also achieved by only wearing Levi's is a sense of regularity. I know that my cell phone will always be in my front left pocket. There's never the urgent sense of searching where the hell that "Conquest" ringtone is coming from. Plus, the initial Levi's jeans exclusivity have crossed over to corduroys and Sta-Prest in that there's nary an occasion (with the sometime exception of a wedding/funeral where I can't fake it with Sta-Prest) I will not have a Levi's tab on my right asscheek. I know I will always have a minimum of four pockets, if I'm lucky to get the fifth there'll certainly be a drum key stuffed in there.

I guess what I'm saying is that I love Levi's (shit, we haven't even gotten into the perfection of the six-pocket jean jacket design) and if you happen to stumble upon any 36x32's or (really need this one here) a size 42 black Sta-Prest suit coat, well, I want 'em.

The club in Asheville, the Orange Peel, was laughably too big. But seeing as they offered the big bucks to bring us there we weren't going to complain. Greg Cartwright showed up with his wife and daughter for soundcheck completing our Oblivians sightings trifecta for the tour (with the rare Quintron bonus!) and after knocking around a bit we cracked next door for some banging burritos.

Mostly slept backstage before the show. Saw a Muldoons tattoo that was pretty unexpected. We performed perfunctory.

Next day we drove to Birmingham. Now I'd heard lots about how cool the Bottle Tree is and every bone in my body wanted to prove it wrong. But the cynic inside is silenced. The Bottletree is easily the best rock club in the nation and (quite possibly) the world.

With seasoned skinsman Brian Teasley (Man…or Astroman?, Polyphonic Spree, Vue) as the driving force behind the venue ably aided by a veritable platoon of proud employees from soundman down to cook, the place is, considering its location in the lifeless wasteland of Alabama, a true-to-life oasis.

Backstage comfort is second to none. A plethora of time-killers are just screaming for you to mess with them…current magazines you'd actually want to read (and Spin too), interesting books (The History of Porn), massage chairs, bowls of candy, a tub filled with all kinds of great sports equipment (Nerf balls galore) and even an Airstream trailer with beds a'beckoning and a TV/DVD set-up with a sweet selection of rock-centric programming (I suggest WORLD'S BEST DRUM SOLOS VOL. 2).

While all the above-mentioned would certainly be enough to win my hardened rock and roll heart, I must specifically mention how fucking cool and courteous the staff at the Bottletree is. I felt a strong sense of mutual respect…they were there to make the show go as smoothly as possible and I was there to put on the best possible show I could. So with oh-so-succulent food (Jerk Grilled Pork Tenderloin) and a staffer who's only job it seemed was to make sure everything was cool for us, I am hard-pressed to come up with anything that even remotely resembles a complaint about the Bottle Tree.

And as it should work, we played a pretty damn solid show. I was actually somewhat nervous performing with Teasley in the room. As much as he's played, I'd figured he was jaded beyond belief and certainly his scribblings in Chunklet would make you think so. But when he came up to me after the show and said he'd never seen someone do a headstand on a bass drum before, it genuinely made my day.

Coming from a dude who's played thousands of shows the world over, it got me to thinking that if HE hadn't seen anyone else do it, maybe no one else HAS done it. This would, in most other circumstances, but no issue at all as I do things all the time I assume no one else has before (eg, ordering a cheeseburger, cheese curds, mini-corndogs at A&W today) but can't imagine that anyone really cares.

But as a music writer and one with a tendency to look for ultimates and firsts, I can't stress how hard it actually is to do something completely original behind a drum set. People just been playing the things for far too long…you can't set 'em on fire, throw 'em up against the wall, play 'em upside down or underwater without being reminded of those who did it first and (most often) better.

So it is here, my faithful readers, that I look to you to help me find any evidence of ANYONE else ever doing a headstand on a bass drum. I know the exact date I performed my first one (and if you do some digging, you can find it buried around here) and we will consider that the starting point until anyone proves otherwise.

But seriously, the Bottle Tree is unparalleled. A club run by a guy who's done his time touring is a club done right. While I never imagined I'd ever have a reason to say it, I truly cannot wait until the next time we get to Birmingham, and more importantly, the next time we get to play the Bottle Tree.

Friday, May 09, 2008

USA Part Two: I Say Oh My and a Boo Hoo...

After Arkansas was the mighty fine trek to Dallas. Ko let me tap my headphones into her iPod and I played DJ for a good chunk of the trip. She'd played a bunch of the new Gnarls Barkley record, but not enough for me to form an opinion. By the time we'd rolled up to the House of Blues I had us rocking out to the Misfits "Bullet."

In bad taste? Hardly.

I snuck off after soundcheck and waltzed over to Dealey Plaza. Trying to think of individual spots where the course of American history changed and that little white "X" in the road has to be tops in regards the actual size versus impact.

I easily would lump Fort Sumter and the World Trade Center site as monumental places in US history. But their literal size also seems too huge and ultimately detracts from the effect of being in its presence.

There were a few guys around …one trying to sell a newsprint pamphlet of photos and news reports, another with a full-blown desktop computer running on a generator hawking CD-ROM's, surely with "the truth" as his main intention.

I just sort of stared around. Later I'd read about a man who, about five years ago, killed himself on that very "X" that marks the spot where JFK was first struck by the assassin's bullet.

And I'll come out right here and say it…I think Oswald acted alone. I think I can solely base my opinion on the downright badass Case Closed account written by all-around badass Gerald Posner. You can huff all you want about LBJ and Castro and the CIA and Woody Harrelson's dad, but in the end, there's just TOO much evidence that points solely in the direction of little Lee Harvey.

Show in Dallas would be the first where I felt absolutely 100% recovered from my ills. There was a decent crowd and I think we sufficiently rocked them.

From Dallas to Austin with a brief stop in Waco at the Style Station. Housed in what was originally a gas station back in the 1920's, it's a wild collection of premium vintage clothes…swank snap-button cowboy shirts, buttery soft Seventies t-shirts, shitloads of Levis in all the right fades…not to mention all kinds of other cool old crap crammed into every last available crevice.

I found some cool shit and even took to trying it on, but alas my fat ass had to take a pass. I was even more bummed about it when the owner lady (who used to live in Detroit) said that musicians get an immediate 20% off. Damn. I ended up with a black print on yellow shirt for what appears to be a go-kart association from the 1970's. I was chuffed.

Upon arrival at Emo's we were greeted by Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio. Troy's bass amp had taken a shit in Little Rock and Mick had been in touch with Dave since then. As a side-effect of being one of the coolest fucking dudes around, Dave went out and bought a brand new Berringer bass amp and just handed it over to us. His instructions were to use it for the rest of the tour and when we're done with it to donate it to a school music program somewhere in Detroit.

Someone just give the guy a medal already, ok?

The Hold Steady would be playing Emo's outdoor space and I think we out-rocked them. I mean, come on, it's the Hold Steady, how many bad bar rock songs to you have to write before Pitchfork stops swallowing your nutsack? Our show was sold out and we had posters made by Rob Jones. We win.

Next day in Austin was spent cruising the hip shops. I got the JVC Force "Strong Island" 12" for $15 and we all contemplated really hard on whether or not the next Dirtbombs "look" would be Odd Fellows outfits from the 1890's with insane flame and eyeball insignias embroidered all over the wildly colored tunics. We opted not to plunk down the couple hundred bucks a piece they were asking at the antique mall, but I'm still certain they'd make for a badass photo shoot.

Then off to Waterloo where I grabbed a bunch of different things only to put it all back and instead buy Chuck Berry's complete Chess sessions from the 1950's. It's not that I'm even that big of a Chuck Berry fan (though I gotta admit the original title for the 4CD box, The Mann Act Was Bullshit is brilliant) but I'm ultimately a sucker for collections to which there's nothing else. Like the first three years of Sun Records boxset, the Bo Diddley double-disc of his first three years on Checker, the Complete Motown Singles series…the idea of having everything, excites me on historical, record collecting, archival contexts not to mention that the ability to clearly view how an artist/label has evolved from release to release is like a soggy dream come true for me.

I then walked across the street to whole foods where I got an Odwalla, some pork and rice mixed together, a bread roll and a chocolate bar with pieces of bacon in it all for a total of $18.

Yes, a chocolate bar with pieces of bacon in it. Someone read my mind. And let me tell you all, this concoction is godhead. It is easily worth the $6 I paid for it. Do yourself a favor and go and buy the greatest delicacy known to man…Mo's Bacon Bar from Vosges Haut Chocolat.

Off to Houston. Rudyard's always initially seems like it's going to be a bummer. We forewent a soundcheck and instead went to hang out at some bookstores. I passed on a $30 book about No Wave that I'm still thinking about. Bookstores = great time killer.

We played well, the crowd was into it but visible signs of their reactions were few and far between. It's frustrating when you KNOW the crowd is into it but they show none of the outward signs…makes it that much harder for you to completely pour yourself into the performance. That being said, I still seem to remember the show ending with fans being brought onto the stage to dance. So I could just be full of shit.

On to Louisiana, bringing to mind brilliant songs by the Walkmen. Seems we never get enough time to spend in New Orleans. Once we'd loaded in I scooted around the corner to check out Rev. Zombie's/Marie Laveaux's Voodoo Shop. I didn't have time to take the haunted New Orleans tour, so I perused around the shop, bought some postcards and a good luck mojo bag and made back to the club.

One-Eyed Jack's is a cool club. I dig it. Nice size and layout and just feels all-around cozy. After check I went around walking some more. Usually I'd go and spend all my time and most of my money at the Tower Records down the block, but with that closed I needed to expand my exploratory options. So I swallowed my pride and went to Urban Outfitters, "Ruining Your Thrift Store Finds since 1992."

I finally plunked down the requisite amount of cash for a copy of Banksy's Wall and Piece and I'm hard-pressed to think of another modern artist who seems to so ably capture the aw-fuckit, youthful joie-de-vivre as the anonymous graffiti chav with a penchant for clever and poignant observations paired with detailed stencil work.

But I was also surprised to see brand-new on-the-rack Levi's Sta-Prest pants. Available in black and brown (and I think only straight-leg as opposed to the more-common/desirable 517 boot cut), they may very well have not even been labeled Sta-Prest as such. But as a certifiable Levi's connoisseur, it was clear the material was that same polyester that I've come to depend on for my fancy-dress occasions. I thought they were no longer in production and a quick call to my sister who works at the Levi's Store on Michigan Ave in Chicago told me that they certainly weren't carried by that location. I know for a period they were being billed as "Tex Twill" and targeted to the cowboy market that Wrangler's pants of the same fabric, cut and colors were intended for.

But for $50 and with a curious inner waistband placement of a silk-screened Levi's logo I was not biting. Had they been available in blue, that'd be an entirely different story. There are barely any pants that I wear that are not Levi's. My hoard of jeans borders on psychologically problematic and by the time I realized that Sta-Prest are pretty much just jeans of a different material, I was easily won over. Also, it's not too often you deal with a company that has literally (really and truly literally) invented a piece of clothing. And Levi's invented the blue jean. To quote the seminal 1980's film about teenage female sorcery, "Top That."

Eric Oblivian's band the True Sons of Thunder opened and they were a welcome first of three. Mr Quintron and Miss Pussycat arrived quite early and I totally blanched as I hadn't even thought to put them on the list as I was certain they were on the road. But they got in nonetheless and I was bummed when I didn't get a chance to talk with them. I wanted to get the scoop on the recent batch of limited Drum Buddies he'd offered up for sale. Hell, I kinda wanted to buy one.

I napped a bit on the band balcony during the Stoltz set. His songs are soft and comforting and remind me of home, they put me at ease and I welcome their ability to but me aslumber.
We rocked well. The sizeable crowd was appreciative. The clear highlight though was a seven-minute band exercise in restraint. To end our main set, we stuck into a groove that became so much bigger than the sum of all our parts, beyond any of our control. The crowd reactions were fucking classic though.

Mike Hurtt said he had friends who wanted to leave during the jam. He wisely said "No, that's what they want you to do. They're not gonna end with this. They will reward you if you stick it out." Hurtt himself could not stand our arty experiment, but he was totally fucking right. As we retook the stage, some girl yelled indignant with pointed finger "THAT WAS NOT COOL!" while another audience member put it more bluntly with "YOU OWE ME!"

So we proffered up "Need You Tonight" and seemingly made it worth their while. It's refreshing to be able to do something that feels totally fresh and satisfying as an artist and yet still challenge (and possibly off-put) the audience. And to bring it all back with some INXS, the musical equivalent of a straight-outta-the-oven chocolate chip cookie, well, it's the best of both worlds, isn't it?

Spent a good chunk of my post-gig time chatting with Peg O'Neill of the Gories. This lady embodies a form of badass that is all but nonexistent outside of her DNA. I can sit there and listen to her talk endlessly. I know I'd creeped her out years ago with my Gories-related obsessiveness, but she's thankfully looked past that and now any time I get to see her is a pure treat. New Orleans was a good day.

Friday, May 02, 2008

USA Part One: This Could Maybe Be Some Fun...

I'm running behind, but I'll catch up sooner or later. Check out Australia Pts. 9 and 5 for some recently added photos (bloody finger, fuzzy drums) and now dig on my words about the motherland.

I had the awesome luck of having to drive to every other Dirtbombs member's house to pick them up before our voyage down to Bloomington. The promoter wanted us there at 4pm to load in. We left Detroit at 2pm and it's at best a five-hour drive.

The great part was that the club wasn't providing a soundman so had we arrived at the suggested time, we would've just been a bunch of aggravated, jet-lagged bombs.

In stead, we showed up after doors had opened and were all the better for it. Never mind that I was pulled over for not having my headlights on. It was totally one of those military haircut hard-ass dudes and I was just waiting for how bad he was gonna screw me.

I honestly explained to him how the lights on the dash made it appear as if my headlights were on. Being that weird time where you kind of need your lights and kind of don't I couldn't really tell if my beams were on or not. He took my license and registration and I immediately prepared for an unjust fine.

Dude came back with a written warning. Fuck yeah. We rule.

Chilled at the club and caught up with Stoltz and company. Looked for the posters for the night with no luck. Bummer. Opening bands were Shake and the Coke Dares. They were standard opening bands.

Stoltz sounded great. The mix, the way his players interacted, starting the set with Link Wray's "Ace of Spades" was all so insanely flawless. It's frustrating because Kelley makes it look effortless while I know firsthand how hard he works for these results and the attention he pays to minute details.

Our set was solid. Seemed like there had to be a dozen people crawling around the stage taking photos. During "They Have Us Surrounded" I set my cracked ride cymbal on top of my floor tom and beat on it with my mallet for some crunchy aural pleasure. After a little while of that, I grabbed the cymbal with one hand and just blindly threw it behind me and over my head. I think it probably looked cool.

For the encore I put my floor tom on my head and Ko banged the head that I think gave me some nasty hearing damage. I grabbed the tom mic and screamed into it "There's more photographers here than at a fucking Olan Mills" with my alternate phrase being "There's more cameras here than at Ko's family reunions."

One of the photographers apparently asked Ko what the most exciting moment was during our set. She wisely told him that was for him to figure out. Then I think he asked if she could signal him when something "cool" was about to happen and she replied "Do you want me to click the shudder for you too?"

So after I tossed the tom off my head I sidled up to this photog and gingerly tried to tackle him while also trying to weasel his camera away from him and take photos with it. Luckily he realized it was all in good fun.

The bummer of the entire day (and soon to be the entire weekend) would be my diminishing physical health. Body aches, sore throat, runny nose, congestion, chest-piercing coughs…they would all make appearances over the Holy Weekend.

Saturday found my illness taking its attack position. I would lack an appetite the entire day. We were mostly making good time for our check/load in Nashville until we came to a particular roadside stop in Kentucky. You see, this particular stop, which included megalithic renditions of prehistoric reptiles, had an establishment touting its t-shirt pricing prowess. But even more exciting…they were selling switchblades.

Of the many idyllic hopes and dreams I had as a young tyke joining this sputtering rock and roll juggernaut, one that had yet to have been fully crushed by the mind-flattening ennui that comes with the territory was to find a properly shady roadside establishment which partook in the commerce of spring-loaded cutlery. I figured that in this ill-begotten country such a search would take all of, oh I don't know, a five-hour drive in any direction.

So year after year I hoped and year after year I was disappointed. I began to think that switchblades just didn't exist any more. I found one once at a Mexican flea market outside of Austin back in 2003, but it had a swastika on it and Pat convinced me otherwise. So despite my deathbed sickness, the day was relatively saved by my $15 purchase. I was kinda into it, but the wide-eyed 17-year-old drummer who still shows up from time-to-time is turning cartwheels.

We got to the club, decided it pointless to load-in and try to soundcheck before our instore so instead went to the hotel and checked in there. Best Western. Nice.

Grimey's for BeerThirty was good. There was an ample enough crowd and a good amount of kids came out…reminding us our show that eve was not all ages. With some record bins pushed aside we had sufficient (not ample) room to fit our shit. I used the house drums, Troy the house bass amp, Mick bought house records.

We played almost all of WE HAVE YOU SURROUNDED in order. We didn't do "La Fin Du Monde" and we kinda only really goofed on "They Have Us Surrounded" but otherwise, it sounded good, the crowd seemed happy, Pat climbed around on shelves and amps and drummed on anything he could get near and I fully utilized the 25% band discount to buy the Metalocalypse DVD, the new BYOP, Malkmus, Numero Group's Big Mack collection, Nick Swardson (my favorite comedian of the moment) as well as 7"s by Liars, the Kills and probably some others I'm forgetting.

Back at the Mercy Lounge and my illness would only escalate. I remember the Clutters and Stoltz playing, but I would remain backstage the entire eve trying to remain perfectly still in hopes that the sickness would think I had left and spare my soul. This, unfortunately, did not work. We played and the crowd was grateful but I found myself having to spit at least once a song, leaving an appetizing puddle of spittle that I'm sure some lucky soul chanced upon later in the eve.

As soon as we finished I returned backstage and continued my quest for eternal motionlessness. The fact that I failed to drink much of anything also led me to believe that our performance had now left me dehydrated.

Easter Sunday. The resurrection found me spending the entire day in bed in a Best Western in Nashville. The last time I spent an entire day supine was the summer between 4th and 5th grade and I'd had kidney surgery at Detroit Children's Hospital and watched a brawl breakout between the Tigers and Bosox after some schmuck decided to bean John Shelby and he rightfully charged the mound. That was almost 15 years ago. Wow.

I've often hoped for some regal excuse like an illness or injury (always thought a broken leg would work) as an excuse to take time and just get some shit DONE. In my dreams, it's usually the process of starting and completing the writing of a book. But with an entire day spent in bed with absolutely dipshit to do, I was left with the sneaking feeling that I only operate on the level of trying to do fifteen things simultaneously.

So if you give me nothing but time, I will complete absolutely nothing. Rather, give me a deadline that is too soon, pile on heaps of other tasks, get me to make the coffee, and I shall deliver. It's like my mom said, if you've got a job that needs to be done, always give it to the busiest person. They'll fit it in. The person not doing anything will just put it off and put it off and never get it done. I think that might be in the Bible somewhere.

Anyway, the entire day in bed sucked but was necessary for recuperation. The number of trips to the bathroom to hock up a lung's worth of phlegm and snot rocket the sink was upwards of thirty. I drank many fluids. I watched Wayne's World and reveled in it's early example of a "that's what she said" joke. Spaceballs was a nice treat too. All my immediate family called me individually to see how I was doing. I ate pizza for dinner. By the next morn I felt much better, about 85% operating level.

We quickly visited one of the few Guitar Center's in the world we've yet to experience, made a brief stop at Loretta Lynn's kitchen and seemed like we were in Memphis in no time. The Artisan hotel was something different last time we'd stayed there and now it just had bad reproductions of Mediterranean classics splashed all over the lobby. The rooms were fake nice…meaning some shit (like the bathroom sinks) really was swank, while other things like the carpet and the "paint" stains on Pat's bedspread were too glaring to overlook.

A quick trip to Shangri-La Records and I scored INXS' "Need You Tonight" in picture sleeve for $2. Played some pinball and killed lots of time as Memphis would prove a big bust. The Black Lips and Quintron had played on Friday, Saturday was Shangri-La's 20th anniversary party, Sunday was Easter and Monday was the night the Dirtbombs played for no more than 25 paying customers at the Hi-Tone Café.

I was happy though that Jack Yarber and Harlan T. Bobo showed up. To me, those two were worth more than 50 more audience members anyway. This night it would feel (to me anyway) that everything we played was hyper-sped up. I'm not gonna lie when I say I kinda liked it, especially on "Get It While You Can". I guess I'm just at that awkward phase where it seems like everything just sounds better when it's played breakneck. It's just a phase…I'm sure I'll grow out of it.

But it's not like Arkansas would prove to be any better. While the Best Western appeared to be brand new with its bright yellow exteriors, the Revolution Music Room would hold no more than 20 paying customers on this night. While the meal shared with the Stoltz band that day was time well spent (and time to catch up for me as both gangs had convened for Easter brunch while I was bed-bound), the club was laughably oversized for our limited draw and the highlight of the night for me was finding a stretch of Mann's Chinese Theater-inspired wet cement slabs that included the signature of a pre-Presidential Bill Clinton. I mean, it's kinda interesting to see that a man who would later become the leader of the Free World partook in some hokey bullshit like that at one time in his life, right?

Earlier that day the dudes in the band found ourselves in the hotel lobby staring at the television. We were held rapturous by the Univision weather report wherein a woman with breasts that bordered on geographic formations sputtered on, en Espanol, about the current meteorological conditions in the American South. Upon finishing her spiel, all four of us wisely and literally applauded her work. I left by saying "I've never found myself so curious about the barometric pressure."