Friday, June 27, 2008

Help Arthur Magazine...

While perpetually tied with Ugly Things and Chunklet for the coveted position of my favorite music magazine, Arthur feels like the print version of NPR, without all the bullshit boring stuff. And unlike UT and Chunky, Arthur has always been free (just like NPR...weird) so just consider right now pledge time.

I implore all of you to donate something, ANYTHING to support this truly worthy cause.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

West Coast Part Two: Yer Never Too Old to Start Acting Young Again...

Next morn on Lynndale Ave in Minneapolis and I spend all my time at Treehouse Records. Picked up an LP copy of Beck's Mellow Gold as well jams like the La Beat Records Story, the Dethklok album, the live recording of Metal Machine Music by that weirdo German outfit, the Italians Do it Better After Dark compilation and some random new 45's that Treehouse is always good for.

The night before, Srini Radhakrishna (formerly of the questionably-legendary Guilty Pleasures and currently of France Has the Bomb) hipped me to a band called Vampire Hands, saying they're the hot new shit in town and that they're possibly even in talks with Sub Pop. Not only did Treehouse have Vampire Hands first two LP's AND play them for us in store to see if we dug it (we did), but the guy behind the counter was the guy behind putting them out.

When word-of-mouth things happen so nicely like that, it makes me feel like everything in the world is alright and that the Internet is just bullshit. We made talk with Mr. Treehouse and I was lucky enough to garner the super-secret discount for my wares. He's good people.

From there to the health food co-op down the street where the whole van loaded up on whatnots and whathaveyous. I got some Tom's of Maine toothpaste, unsure of whether I wanted (or needed) fluoride or not, as well as Paul Newman peanut butter cups, an organic croissant, some fruity fru-fru pansy electrolyte drink and a jar of royal jelly for Pat and I to split.

The royal jelly goes back to a story relayed to us by Chris Sutton of C.O.C.O. Apparently the members of Nation of Ulysses would down handfuls of the stuff before going onstage and that was supposed to be the secret to their overabundance of energy for their live performances. Anything good enough for Svenonius had to be good enough for us, right?

So cut to backstage in Fargo, Pat and I each swallow a lovin' spoonful of the stuff a little before going onstage. It's sweet but not overly so…if anything it's unpredictably viscous (that's what she said).

While tempted to grab a microphone and offer audience members $20 for the most embarrassing story they could offer about Chuck Klosterman, I only remember leaving the stage and saying the set felt "kinda fast" to which Ko, Troy and Mick replied, sarcastically, "You think?"

So while the royal jelly didn't find me jumping out second story window's with snare drum in hand or using two beer taps as drumsticks, it did, at the very least, propel the drummers to a speed slightly faster than usual. But I'm still waiting to turn into Steve Gamboa.

Hotel in Fargo felt brand new, wooden log façade (or hell, maybe it was actually a log cabin Best Western) and an overall nice smell to it. Right down the street from Space Alien Café, the worst eatery in all of town. We did a proper van clean up and briefing for our border crossing and all went smoothly.

West End Cultural Center seemed a bit off for us to be playing in Winnipeg, a place more-suited for touring theater productions rather than sweaty fag rock. On a pole outside the club was a Live Nation-commissioned Canadian tour poster…a towheaded Dennis the Menace-esque illustration complete with striped t-shirt and handful of dirt in mid-heave and I reveled in notifying the band that I and I alone was the one depicted on the Canadian posters.

Biggest bummer of the Winni show was noticing a significant crack in my ride cymbal. Boo. It's not worth it trying to buy cymbals in Canada with their imported prices and unnecessary sales-pitch "eh's" so I accepted the fact that I'd be somewhat screwed for the next week or so until we made it back to the States.

Dudes up front in Turbojugend jackets were into our jams and that was cool. But I've always wondered, do you have to send away UPC codes or something to get one? Because they're all personalized with your city and some vaguely homoerotic nickname and I can't imagine they just have a pile of "Turbojugend Vinnipeg" with "StevenSemen" jackets with them on tour.

So when I got the mic, I took the opportunity to ask this question in a clear and non-threatening way. The thing is, saying the phrase "Turbojugend" itself is threatening to jacket wearers if not immediately followed by the words "FUCKING ROCKS!"

So when I got into the crowd they were kinda messing with me, friendly pushing and the like. But when Pat and I commenced throwing our cracked cymbals at each other in a majestic, almost balletic finesse, I took to slamming mine at the edge of the stage and they took to spraying me with beer. I slickly unplugged Mick's adjacent pedals and tossed them out of beer spray's way and then used the cymbal as a Captain America-like shield from the stouts and lagers.

As I returned to the stage to break down my equipment, one of the dudes took to trying to start shit with me, asking "Why you gotta 'dis the Jugend man?" and "Come over here (to the edge of the stage) I just want to talk to you" to which I replied I was not dissing the Jugend, recited some lyrics from the song "Denim Demon" and refused to go to the edge of the stage, me being fully engrossed in the intricacies of breaking down a hi-hat stand like never before or since.

To add further challenge to it all, the club had received our big 'ole merchandise order for the rest of the tour. T-shirts with Morrisey on them, t-shirts with "You Are Being Watched" emblazoned across the chest, Blackula tote bags and possibly even other shit I'm forgetting arrived in Winnipeg to the tune of five huge cardboard boxes.

The van was already overstuffed with shit and as resident Tetris expert, I delighted in figuring out a way to make it all fit. By shoving my floor tom (which already had my rack tom telescoped inside) through my barely there batter-side kick drum head, I'd freed up a good cubic yard of space and with some more wiggling and jiggling and pushing and squeezing, I managed to get all the bullshit safely into our fifteen passenger boat.

Whenever such a packing feat is accomplished, you mark the occasion by saying one special phrase, "It's a beautiful thing." And indeed, it was.

Our hotel that night was purely Canadian in the fact that it had a water slide. As you traverse the Canadian Prairie the sudden omnipresence of waterslides becomes an inexplicable phenomenon along the lines of the Marfan Lights or Webkinz. This being the first time in memory we'd stayed at such a lodge and with Pantano and Sartain tying up the in-room shower the next morning (but not together…I don't think) I took to swimming as my means of bathing.

(cut to a golden nugget from Sartain…"Men will use going swimming as a reason to NOT shower, whereas women use going swimming as a reason to HAVE to shower." The man is full of them)

With the pool to myself I curiously press the "On" button for jets to the slide and with a youthful curiosity, climb to the top of the structure, anticipating an anticlimactic descent into the chlorinated depths.

So understand that upon being spit out of the curlicued aquatic attraction I was overcome with a complete sense of excitement. That shit was fun as hell! I couldn't, for the life of me, remember the last time I'd partaken in aquatic spirals and the entire experience was rejuvenating. I would proceed to climb those stairs and drop down the slide without a care in the world, seven consecutive times in all.

Moments like this are key to maintaining sanity on tour. Like an evening spent on carnival rides at Luna Park in Melbourne back in 2004, flipping upside down with a beautiful beach evening view, realizing it's all a gas, that the momentary childlike feeling is unpredictable and unmatchable. The waterslide made my tour, reminded me of sun-soaked summers spent slipping and sliding and proved to me yer never too old to start acting young again.

Breakfast at Tim Horton's and Sartain orders what he thought to be a BLT (in actuality it's a B-E-LT, the added "E" being egg). Upon unwrapping his food, he takes a disgusting look and immediately throws the offending chow with Clemens-like velocity into the trashcan and screams "FUCK THIS!"

He then sips at what he had ordered as "sweet tea" (a decidedly Southern offering all but nonexistent in Canada) only to pitch that onto the pavement and bellow "WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT!" To which I didn't have the heart to reply "a 20oz of Lipton Iced Tea, you're in Winnipeg for chrissakes, what did you expect?"

A brief coolant leak scare allayed and the drive to Saskatoon was utterly uneventful. Louie's Pub is a campus-run sort of deal and if the 8x10's on the wall backstage were any indication, if you weren't a really important Canadian band (ie, Barenaked Ladies) then you had no reason playing, exempting Pavement.

The crowd was fairly sparse and Pantano let me use his ride for the Sartain set. Each show with him would get better and better, me actually remember how songs go and where changes come was a welcome departure from shitting my pants trying to follow that guy. I think it'd be the first night Dan yelled out "Cobras 2" without any apparent concern for the fact that not only hadn't we rehearsed it, but that the two of us hadn't actually played the song together since July. Luckily I'm fairly well versed in Sartain's back catalog and we pulled it out of our asses and no one was the wiser.

After the gig we crash the only way we know how…Best Western-style.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

West Coast Part One: What Time Are We Supposed to Be There?

The Turner Ballroom in Milwaukee wanted us to arrive around 5pm. I don't think we showed up until 8:30 or so. Wasn't no thang for us, but apparently the club was paralyzed about what to do…there was even talk of completely canceling the show. We laughed when we were told this. We've shown up for gigs 45 minutes before closing and still played and STILL rocked the room.

The bigger problem, of course, was that we didn't even get to stop at Mars Cheese Castle.

The club was nice…catering, fancy upstairs dressing rooms, 'twas a shame we didn't really get to enjoy them for more than a few minutes. Caught the last few songs of the Terrible Twos and it was good seeing them on a big stage.

The set with Sartain was alright…I felt some kinks that still needed to be worked out, but I think the crowd was well-pleased with what they saw that night.

The Dirtbombs set was fun. We hadn't played together in over a week and there was a little rust to shake off, but overall the setlist is solid, everyone has it memorized and we can go from one song to another without having to speak to each other. This is the ultimate pinnacle of how tight we get on tour.

Having seen some non-flattering pix of my bass drum headstands, I'd vowed to myself to make that shit look a lot cooler. So during the encore of "I Can't Stop Thinking About It" I balanced myself on the drum and fully extended my legs with the sole intent of keeping them as straight as possible.

Somehow or another Pat timed the length of my headstand, an impressive 6.4 seconds, Easily a new personal best. Clearly the secret to a substantial stand time is keeping the legs straight. From there, I grabbed the floor tom mic, put the drum on my head and started singing about Green Bay stalwart Time Bomb Tom (representing in front of the stage) into Beck's "Timebomb" and then asking "Whatever happened to the Cactus Club?" as a sort of befuddlement as to why we were playing a theater more suited to fit over a thousand people in it rather than basement rec room-styled Cactus that broke so many bands in Beer City.

And so I relay to you a problem we've been encountering lately…do you play a smaller room, probably not as swank or with all the proper amenities, and totally pack 'em in and most likely for less money – OR – do you take the guaranteed bigger paycheck in the bigger room with catering and towels and a backstage and just cope with playing a room that's at 1/3 its capacity?

Frankly, I think proper showbiz etiquette dictates that you should always play a room slightly smaller than you can fill…just to keep things exciting. But as this is a touring operation highly susceptible to the forces of $7 a gallon gas, sometimes you just need to go for the sure thing.

I sang more at the front of the stage, kicked some cans of bear and then outright pounced upon David from the Mistreaters. I took him to the floor and we rolled around and after a spirited tussle I ended up on top with his arms pinned. An employee of the club, apparently unaware that I've spent the past 9 years of my life with the Mistreaters, was feverishly trying to pull me off the man, probably under the impression I had just blindly attacked a member of the audience and scared that it would somehow end up in a lawsuit against the club.

My little sister and her boyfriend drove up from Chicago for the show I had a blast hanging out with them backstage. It's crazy how much I miss her since she's moved to an area that actually has jobs for people in their twenties, but it makes the time that I do get to spend with her that much sweeter.

Next day in Madison. Time kicking around town proves fruitless at the record store and vintage clothing store, but the lesbian book store provides a goldmine of pins that will be discreetly placed on members of the touring party where they will sit for some time before being noticed. Pin sayings include:

"Stop staring at my tits" (and I actually may just keep that one for my own jacket)
"Not every sperm deserves a name"
"I got this way by kissing boys"
"I (heart) bisexuals"

This is how we have fun. Is it funny for me to wear the "tits" button or no?

Madison was into us. Good-sized crowd and when I went into it during the encore I guess I pissed someone off. The stage was covered in broken glass by the time I left. Pat said he saw a dude getting particularly violent breaking bottles and being restrained by his friends. It is possible when I jumped into the crowd that I may have inadvertently injured him or someone in his party. If so, it was a mistake and I apologize for my carelessness and hopefully such misunderstandings can be worked out verbally in the future and not in the senseless destruction of alcoholic beverage containers.

After the show Pat was worried the guy would try and fight me, so he made sure to accompany me (all Bob Seger style) as I left the cushy confines of the backstage area to go help sell merch.

After a brief respite at Parson's Indian Trading Post in the Wisconsin Dells, we rolled into Minneapolis and saw that the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players were opening for Kate Nash at First Avenue, the club upstairs from the 7th St. Entry, where we would play.

It's little surprises like this that make touring exciting. I walked into the First Ave, found the fam and caught up with them, glad to figure that I would be able to catch their set and even moreso that they'd be able to see some of ours.

Their songs "Look at Me" and "Don't You Know What I Mean" (featured on their Cass Records 7") are still so strong and pure in my heart that I feel on the verge of tears when I hear them live. Rachel seems so grown up and I feel some sort of pride in watching her perform…the song where she played ukulele and sang about pigeons (she wrote it herself!) was even more wistful beauty and I still can't believe that the rest of the world still does not know how amazing this band is.

And to think I first saw them on Late Night with Conan O'Brien and only afterwards asked them to release a record. As a whole, the Trachetenburg single is still my proudest achievement with Cass. I'm a better person for knowing them as they give me hope for families, innovation, America and all kinds of abstract ideas that it's quite easy to be bummed about.

For our last song that night, Sartain yelled out "Tiger Man" a song we'd BARELY even goofed on at sound check. After listening to a few passes of his frantic strumming I cooked into a go-to Sartain Beat (or "Everything I Need to Know About Playing Drums for This Guy I Learned By Watching Ben Swank When I Was 17-Years-Old" as I like to call it) and Rufus Thomas could not have been prouder.

Our set was strong, just nothing particular stands out about it. Afterwards Kate Nash (headliner of the T-burg show upstairs) came up and said she really liked it. I guess she's a big deal, but I've still never heard her stuff. She mentioned that her boyfriend's band opened for us ages ago and when I had no idea what band that would be she said it was the Cribs. All at the same club I first met Jason Pierce. Thus concludes my name-dropping for the UK audiences.

Hotel was converted from an old train station into a cedar-smelling lodge with confusing circuitous room numbering and a numbingly brilliant way of fucking up our reservations that left me on a rollaway bed. I made a cup of noodles and lacking utensils had to venture out to the van (in some god-forsaken outfit, I'm sure) to obtain a spoon from the carry-out container I'd filled with plastic cutlery in a fit of prescience at catering in Milwaukee.

Friday, June 13, 2008

USA Part Seven: Conclusion of the East Coast...

Day off in Montreal wisely spent relaxing. Bought a kick-ass Detroit Red Wings throw-back sweater (not "jersey") the same that the team wore during the '91-92 season as part of the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the NHL.

This thing is beyond sweet, and I can't remember how much I actually spent on it, only that it was well-worth it. Makes me feel like I'm ten-years old again.

Ate at some greasy café that had a "Detroit" hot dog and was too curious to pass it up. The dog came with a liquefied meatsauce that may have possibly attempted to be chili. It was wholly unappetizing.

Bought Miranda July's "Learning to Love You More" from Urban Outfitters.

Trekked with Pat to the IMAX theater down the street from our hotel to catch Shine a Light, the latest Rolling Stones concert film. I was sincerely anticipating what I'd heard, from numerous sources, was a pretty great film.

From the opening sequence of the movie…with the playing up of the "what will the set-list be?" factor of the show, through the absolutely retching CGI'd ending with the moon over Manhattan morphing into the Stones' lips logo, the entire work was one solid disappointment after another.

Not only is it the only Scorcese film I can think of that doesn't feature "Gimme Shelter" but it's all so unexciting. Start the show with "Jumping Jack Flash"? Really? Was that the big secret you couldn't tell the producer before you got on stage? And that half-assed abortion you seemed to feel comfortable calling "Shattered"? Sick to my stomach…the band completely took the herky-jerky LIFE of that song and regurgitated it as forgettable bar band blues blah.

The entire thing suffered from what I would call "film mixing for idiots." That is, whoever is featured on screen is immediately thrust to the forefront of the audio mix. And as soon as the camera catches on someone else or changes shots, that next person is then the audio king for a second.

Distracting and frustrating to say the least, this approach left me completely unable to hear how certain guitar solos concluded. And believe me, I am so fucking far from an audio snob, I listen to Back From the Grave records and love 'em. But the accompanying audio to the visuals provided in Shine a Light is an egregious offense to anyone who's ever heard the Rolling Stones before.

All of these caused me to become particularly bored with the film and I fell asleep two separate times during the film. When Buddy Guy was thanked in the end credits, I had to ask Pantano why. Apparently I'd managed to miss that entire song.

Jack White's tasteful contribution to "Loving Cup" notwithstanding, I can in no way recommend "Shine a Light" and however inflated the Canadian dollar price of my IMAX ticket, I want it back.

Next day bought a vintage suit jacket (contemplated a German horse leather aviator coat from WWII but balked at the $700 tag) that Pat was jealous of and Mick said "You only got that 'cause it looks exactly like the coat I wore in the Gories."

My reply: "So?"

Quick drive up to Ottawa was particularly sunny. Club there was a complete shitfest, the backstage basement looking like something the most recalcitrant of crust punks would admit needed some cleaning. Had a tasty Asian meal down the street from the club.

Show was cool. The promoter threw all of the tickets for the night at us while we played in some faux-fetti fiasco. I believe the encore entailed me imploring the audience to dance like no one was watching them, a plea I would spruce up and use again at future shows. Ottawa also may have been my first use of "All the ugly people be quiet". Sometimes you just can't remember.

Next day in Toronto and buying rare rap records down the street from the Horseshoe Tavern. Stoltz band would play on CBC radio early that afternoon and he himself surprised me with a Hockey Night In Canada hooded sweatshirt that has become the instant envy of anyone who's seen it. I was chuffed.

The show was fine, again ending with a jam on "Miss You" with members of both bands taking part. As soon as we finished, we hurriedly packed up our gear and made the 4-hour drive straight back to Detroit. I dropped everyone else off first, stopped at Archer to pick up some test pressings and then collapsed in a heap.

Toledo and Ann Arbor didn't really feel like tour, but a trip to Tony Packo's and hitting up Underground Sounds on Record Store Day were choice. Pat got attacked by some drunken dude in Toledo and besides Frankie's looking exactly the way it did ten years ago, there's nothing else of merit to report from those days.

End of tour wrap party at New Seoul Gardens was delicious. There was created one collaborative picture sleeve for the Kelley Stoltz/Dirtbombs split single. Someday maybe someone will see it. A fun tour, marked by good meals, great shows, quixotic headaches and all kinds of in-between, it was a pleasure to share it all with a class-act like Kelley Stoltz and his equally as classy band. Good times.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

USA Part Six: We're Actually in Canada Now...

Show day with time to kill in New York is a nice luxury. I again meet with Kugelberg and we finalize the details on a blockbuster record trade the likes of which make me giddy. We dine at a pretty fantastic ramen place, the name of which escapes me. He also took me to Academy Records, the vinyl store, in Manhattan. He made a few sound suggestions (a Folkways LP with early Moondog recordings , another Folkways LP with music made by wild animals) and when he asked what would be good records to play for a grade school classroom, all I could muster was the first White Stripes album. And I still stick by that.

After check at Bowery I tramped up the street to Rockit Scientist, my favorite record store in NYC. John and Ramsey behind the counter absolutely revel in playing shit for you and don't mind taking their time for frank discussion about anything from baseball to bossa nova. I don't remember what I bought, but I always buy something as, after seven years of loyal help, they feel like family to me.

From there, a nice and relaxing meal was had around the corner at Freeman's. A slight step-up from my usual gourmandizing Subway fares, "they" call restaurants of this nature "New American" and despite my not really believing that, the taxidermy on the walls and the staff were all warm and welcoming.

Started with the Devil's on Horseback (bleu-cheese stuffed prunes wrapped in bacon), a dish I'd been hearing raved about from quite some time. I was impressed…just not bowled over. Paired with the artichoke dip and it was a substantial appetizer for my barbeque spare ribs served over a bed of cheese grits.

While I usually frown upon pre-show food consumption, this entire experience opened my mind to what could be accomplished in the time before taking the stage. The pace of it was what really won me over…for a bustling joint on a Friday night that, for the most part, doesn't take reservations (and immediately after the '04 elections, responded to the Bush twins query of "How long for a table?" with the delicious "About 4 years") I felt amazingly calm and at ease, even with a set time to make.

There was dessert too…rich and sugary of some sort. As a whole it was a tad expensive yes, but it made my day as meals so rarely do. And a particularly good meal on tour is a commodity no price can be affixed to…instead you offer yourself to the god of gourmet and sacrifice your wallet in ecstasy.

First of three band was Care Bears on Fire and pending a show with Smoosh, we may be the adult band that's played with the most "kid" bands now. They were cute and fun and had parents that seemed like they were possibly a tad overbearing. But hey, maybe that's what you need to be when you're bringing your kids to hang out in bars while in junior high.

Our set was nothing spectacular. We showed up, we played our songs as we've come to play them and the response was appropriate. Nothing spectacular and far from a let-down, it was more just the accomplishment of our first show on the island of Manhattan in almost two years coming off without a hitch. The room was sold out and that was enough for me.

Pulling into Boston and as we drive past Cheapo Records I see Peter Wolf (J. Geils Band) exiting. I immediately called my mom, as she's the biggest J. Geils fan I know and played 20 questions with her about who I'd seen. For some reason she couldn't get off an Aerosmith tangent and I think she only figured it out after I gave some god-awful clue like "the band rhymes with 'lay liles.'" Even when she did get it, she seemed fairly unimpressed and I told her that's the last time I spot band members from semi-memorable bands of yesteryear for her.

But then she got on to talking about Electrifyin' Mojo made "Flamethrower" a hit in Detroit even though it was a single…and maybe something about how some of his listeners had thought J. Geils was a black band. I live for stories about Mojo…like Mike Banks in Underground Resistance cover story of THE WIRE recently saying something along the lines of

"He saved a lot of lives back in '82…gang violence was at its worst that year and he'd get on the air and say 'hey, let's be cool out there' and then drop 'Rock Lobster' and you can't be killing people while you're doing the rock lobster"

I'm also hoping big-time someone reading here can throw me a line on how to see the Electrifyin' Mojo documentary. Any help? Anyone?

Our good deed of the night was sneaking an underage girl in the back door and then hiding her in the band dressing room for the rest of the night until we played. I think at some point she even gave Ko a haircut, so we at least put her to work.

Show was solid (nice VU mallet beat throughout "Surrounded), best moment was our encore of "Kung Fu" called as an audible. During the freaky part in the middle I climbed atop Pat's bass drum and began banging on his rack tom. This would be the first time I made such a move and needless to say I dug on it hardcore and would jump at the chance whenever the opportunity arose in the future.

From there we welcomed the wicked border crossing for our frosty northern neighbors, Canada. When we arrived Man Man was sitting there waiting for their paperwork rigamarole "let's see how long we can make these weirdos sit here before one of them freaks out and then conduct body cavity searches on the whole lot" stunt. Dorien knew their tour manager, so they engaged in small talk, but the bands themselves shared nary a word.

Not long after they were on their way the Kelley Stoltz band arrived at the same crossing. Even though they showed up AFTER we did, they got out of there BEFORE us, most likely due to the fact they were carrying no merchandise with them and had no tariff/duties/customs bullshit fees to pay (whereas we did…all $87 of it).

So after they leave ANOTHER FUCKING BAND walks in the passport control building. Was this some kind of joke? It was killing me not knowing who they were and the fact that they looked hip was only exacerbating my mindset even more. I had to approach.

I'm pissed I didn't say the line I'd been toying with (suggested by Troy?) which was "Don't I know you from Pitchfork?" and instead probably just said something terribly monosyllabic like "What band you?" When they said they were Yeasayer, I was even more pissed…if only because they're totally always on Pitchfork. I told them what my initial intro line was going to be and they all agreed it would've been much, much funnier. Next time…

Cabaret Music Hall in Montreal is a nice club to play. Our set times got pushed back because the Habs had a playoff game and I'd like to blame the less-than-stellar turnout on the fact that those pansies lost.

It seems at this point in touring that our encores are really what keep everything fun and flowing. It's not that I don't dig the main set, but I've come to start thinking that the set is for the fans and the encore has become for the band. It's where we can explore ourselves out, try some different things, spread our metaphorical wings…our encore is where we can just BE.

So on this night many things would happen and I'd be a mystic if I could both remember them all and their order, so please forgive my usual chronological accuracy at this moment and just enjoy.

Before playing any songs, I said "Habitants, quel dommage" in response to the Canadiens losing earlier in the evening.

We played the Rolling Stones' "Miss You" with most (if not all) of the Kelley Stoltz band joining us in some form or another.

I carried my snare drum, kick drum, ride cymbal and drum throne off the stage down into the crowd and began playing while completely surrounded by the fans. I believe the song was "Granny's Little Chicken"

I had a microphone and partook in some playful banter with the crowd. I can remember being particularly fixated on the Arcade Fire, busting out with "My grandpa died too…get over it." I may also have dropped "All the ugly people be quiet" into the mix

I abdicated my drums (only to have the seat taken up by a revolving door of "I can do that's" kicking around) and climbed a speaker stack up to the balcony. I then began throwing wooden chairs off the balcony onto the stage. About four in total. One snapped in half. The promoter joked about charging us for it later, but he seemed so into it he said he couldn't charge us after such a great performance. He said the gig was so good it'd be written up in the weeklies. I don't think it was.

My drums ended a mess…in the process of tossing them in the air, (probably) putting them on my head, taking them into the crowd, headstanding on them and whatever else I managed to lose my last remaining mallet from my Euro tour with Stoltz in '06. That felt bittersweet, as a lone mallet was a small sacrifice for what was, in my mind, easily the best show of the tour.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

USA Part Five: Whatever...

Maxwell's feels like home, albeit it one you can never park within 15 blocks of.

Hoboken is all so familiar that the fact we always have to search the darkest recesses of the city for a parking spot befitting a 15-passenger while in be it biting cold, suffocating heat, Jersey stench or just plain annoyance, has become somewhat a calming experience.

We rocked the party. I put all of the Stooges Funhouse on the jukebox as I sat down for dinner, but was bummed to find out that, although I'd programmed the songs in order, the beast itself took the liberty of scattering the songs throughout the span of my selections.

What kind of bullshit is that? It's like that completely fucked option on those ultimately lame satellite jukeboxes where, for an extra credit, you can have your song played immediately.

Now I know the world we live in is unfair and that those with gross amounts of money are usually quick to remind us of it. But the jukebox! The last bastion of public audio programming is now selling out for a quick credit? Whereas before the entire process was democratized, to hear my super-savvy obscurest garage jams, you had to be tempered under the spiteful honk of an Elton John medley. It made it all that much more worth it.

Just like everything else, the ad wizards have found an ever-so-small kink to cater to those with a nickel to spare while those of us still clinging to our jukebox ethics are freezing out in the cold.

The Datsuns showed up for the gig as they were spending some time in NYC. The room was fairly full, not jam-packed sold-out like other times, but it was a Sunday after all. I assume we played well and the crowd enjoyed it. I'm not writing this shit in real-time, so some details get lost after awhile.

The next day I spent with Johan Kugelberg. Smart, divisive and a record collector of the utmost caliber, he opened my eyes to a cornucopia of delights the likes of which I am not able to fully divulge on this here transmission. But a few things I dug:

In a word…wow. There's no real reason something like this should exist and that's why I love it. Some have argued Folkways is the best record label of all-time and I'm coming up with nary a reason to try and disprove that. You can hear/see for yourself this particular title at

-original Back From the Grave promo poster

-picture sleeve for "All Tomorrow's Parties"

-a handful of songs off of Funhouse pressed onto one side of an LP intended for US Army radio airplay

The wise soul offered me much along the lines of opinion, touring advice (Spirolina) books he'd worked on (all oh-so delectable) and just general composure. We ate at Pizza by the Pound and it was glorious.

From there I walked to Other Music for the Dirtbombs instore performance. Load in was easy and we were able to stay parked in front of the store the entire time we were there. Nice.

I'd forgotten I'd broken my snare drum head the night before and the Other people were so helpful that they sent someone out to go grab me a new head. By the time the lights and cameras were set-up and they'd let the crowd pour in it was pretty exciting.

We played We Have You Surrounded in it's entirety, in order. I felt particularly energized (the "shit, we're only playing 45 minutes, let it all fly loose" vibe ringing in my head) and particular highlights were having the crowd so damn close to us, using the Buddha box on "Race to the Bottom" and getting my rack tom to hang upside-down from the ceiling and being able to play it that way.

Fucking fun times. I bought some shit there too…needing to take advantage of the 20% discount…the new Joe Carducci book, The Birth of Jazz by the Modey Lemon, the 1st Matador single by Jay Reatard, the 7" by Vivian Girls and some other shit I'm forgetting. The store even hooked me up with a free copy of the Breeders Mountain Battles that made my day.

Mick was interviewed on camera afterwards and I was delighted that the questioning was intelligent, informed and nothing like the other interviews he has to continuously do. I was left alone with the van, in charge of taking it back to Jersey City when I was hit with the weird vision spots (why do I think these are called fascia?) as a precursor to a headache.

I can say that driving a 15 passenger van alone through Manhattan in annoying rain at nighttime is not the best thing when your vision ain't 100% and it's even more aggravating when you're looking for signs for the Holland Tunnel. Every little light takes on a soft aura glow around it and where I'm used to 20/20 vision now more resembles an impressionist painting.

Next day foray to New Haven, CT was slightly fun. We picked half the band at Union Square and then made the hoof up to Third Unheard territory. The club (Café Nine) is beautifully tiny. We ate Italian carry-out, I ambled 'til I found a decent newsstand and bought the latest issue of Bad Idea and Stoltz hit his head on a precariously-placed ceiling nail, drawing blood.

I had a pre-show headache (I know, I know, I need to get this shit checked out) but once we were onstage everything felt magnificent. The head pain was gone, we were crammed up there like Mexicans in the back of a semi and the crowd couldn't have had more space than we did. It's moments like that where you feel the energy up in your throat. I did a headstand on my bass drum to end it all and in the process took Mick out with my legs.

I was a complete and total accident and I was thankful he wasn't hurt. Then I thought if I saw one of my favorite bands (shit, ANY band) where the drummer accidentally took out the lead singer because he was doing a headstand on a bass drum, I'd be really fucking impressed. So despite my inclusion in their ranks, I still think I'm the biggest Dirtbombs fan out there.

Spent the next day tramping around Jersey record stores with supreme collector Justin Frohwirth. He's largely responsible for upkeep on the staggeringly comprehensive punk discog at

He was able to track down a copy of the first LP by the Fourth Movement and after talking for awhile (we got lost somewhere on the Garden State Parkway) we realized that I bought my copy of the Victims "No Thanks to the Human Turd" single off him at the WFMU Record Fair back in 2003.

He said the only reason he remembered me was because that he didn't know me, saying that it's rare to unload big ticket items like that to people you'd never met before. I think the price on the single was $200, which I gladly paid. I also picked up an X-X record. I liked that we'd "met" years before for nary a moment but both clearly remembered it.

A nice dinner in Jersey City was a mental relaxant.

Off to Philadelphia for some City of Brotherly Fuck You. I've never really had anything remotely resembling a good time there and wasn't ever really expecting to. The few record stores I hit were decent…the soul/dance/r&b shop filling me with copies of some choice early hip-hop comps as well as Freddy Fresh's Rap Records Book, Volume Two, all necessities in my current jag of early rap knowledge.

With tons and tons of shoe stores, I was still unable to find a pair of size 10 1/2 Nike Vintage Waffle Racers or Oregon Waffle Vintage in my desired color scheme of green and orange OR yellow and green. Any help from those reading here in searching down a pair would be greatly appreciated…the Nike Vintage site says all sold out, but I call bullshit, someone must have some somewhere.

Johnny Brenda's was nice and comfortable. Soundcheck and dinner afterwards were both supreme. I slept during Mondo Topless and most of the Stoltz set too. The crowd was into our jam and it got me into it big time. To end the set, I jumped off the stage, ran up the stairs into the balcony, climbed over the railing, traversed the lighting rig like a set of monkey bars, swung myself into motion and after almost losing my grip and falling 12-15 feet to the ground, gathered myself and landed on the stage, knocking the wind out of myself, but ultimately driving the crowd nuts.

I also did the drum on the head dance, sang parts of "We Fenced Other Houses With the Bones of Our Own", jumped into the crowd, had two glasses thrown at me (with one actually connecting) and overall pulled out all the stops to engage the audience while having fun myself. I think I clearly succeeded, just watch the video here…