Archive for the ‘Once A Rockstar…’ Category

Tour Journal – 2005 – Vol. 1 – Issue. 1

From the cab of a yellow truck.

There's a lot of frickin' snow up in the mountains between Oregon and California. If you receive this, I guess it means we didn't die in some
arctic snow bank. But then again maybe we did, and i'm sending this from the other side of the twilight veil, oooh spooky.

Anyway, we've been driving for five hours and i'm already set to quit the whole tour. Maybe we can find some quaint ski town and live there.

To get you up to date on the last two and a half weeks, we've been planning, packing, traveling, and/or hanging out with our parents. We started by flying out to Detroit on December 13th and spent a week there.

Oh, how to start this part?

My family is crazy.

I'm sure you think your family is crazy, but no, that's because you haven't hung with mine. For some reason it's been important to me that J connect with my family, and i've been planning this trip for months. The logic of this seemed to evaporate as we drew nearer and nearer to Michigan.

On the flight into Detroit i occupied myself writing a depressing story about our plane crashing. I think J wrote some story about unicorns and bunnies. [note from J: Did not – it was about a little girl and a Pegasus!]

I can encapsulate “The Michigan Visit” with two distinct events.

One: My dad revels to J and me that he has diagnosed my mother with Alzheimer's. In truth, as a retired audiologist, dad is unqualified to make such a diagnosis, but i think he brought it up because he's scared (“not scared”, he said when i tried to empathize with him “concerned for your mother.”) I think he figured he'd dump it on me and i'd run and talk to my mom about it (which i did), i imagine he was too afraid, um; i mean concerned to talk to her himself.

Two: A conversation with my mom;

MOM: I won't get too close to J because you don't stay in relationships very long.
ME: But mom J and i have been together for four years
MOM: Your sister has been MARRIED for ten years
ME: Yeah but their relationship is totally on the rocks.
MOM: Your father and i have been MARRIED for forty years
ME: You know J and have been talking about getting married.
MOM: I better be invited!
ME: Um, why would i tell you if i wasn't planning to invite you?
MOM: What does 'talking about it' mean anyway? I'll believe it when i see it.
ME: We've been talking about it for a year now.
MOM: And you haven't told me!

Etc etc etc… Eventually we escaped Detroit and flew down to St. Louis.

J's parents, while not up to my family's high standards of lunacy, are also crazy. I have the theory that J's family are secretly trying to
avoid each other. This theory was reinforced when her brother scheduled his visit to her parents to end the day before we showed up. When J complained that she wasn't going to see him, he bought new tickets… and arrived the day AFTER we left.

Of course on our end, the day we got in from Detroit we hopped into a minivan with J's mom and drove eleven hours out to Iowa to see J's
grandfather. J's dad stayed behind, so we spent christmas with J's mom and grandfather in an assisted living facility. I'm Pagan, so
christmas isn't really my holiday. But still it was a bit weird all the same. We spent most of the time there trying to hook J's grandfather up with someone, “Check her out Ken, she's pretty, and she plays piano.”

As with Detroit, we eventually left Iowa for another eleven hour drive back to St. Louis and left St. Louis for another 12-hour flight back to Eugene. I think the only reason we are even vaguely sane right now is because we got to recuperate at a friend's house for a few days before we started to live in this damn trunk.

So here we are now, trading two hour driving shifts and having enlightening conversations about what name to give our truck; expect a report on Stanford next week.

Distaster stories from the road: Chapter 2

Tragedy, Blood, and Theft

st. louis
madison, IN
madison, WI

who'd have thought?

Our touring life hasn't been all that toury lately, I mean, we're playing gigs and all that, but after staying with J's folks in St. Louis and mine in Detroit, it feels more like we're on a family reunion trip.

We haven't killed each other yet, and we seem to be dealing with our daily adventures fairly well. Although after reading N's tour journal (suspiciously sent out before mine) I realize that I need to counter the huge lies and cover-ups. I mean, he didn't even mention our consistent drug use or the alien spaceship orgies.

But, lemme rewind to last week.

We left Spartanburg to drive through the mountains to Ashville. Once there we tried to pick up an extra gig that night. We drove to “The Kats Lair” (which sounded to me like an alternative club anxiously awaiting a hip industrial band like us) They were hosting a battle of the bands and we thought we might be able to slip on the bill. My first clue that I had guessed wrong was the confederate flags on every wall. My second was the use of bull's horns as their primary thematic element. Third were the cowboy hats, forth, fifth, sixth… you get the idea. I turned on my heal and walked out, but then I thought to myself “what the hell” and went back in to ask the bartender if “y'all we're looking for another band?” The gentleman informed me they were “clear booked up through August” After getting turned down at a second bar, N and J went on a date and I wired the bus to have electricity for my computer.

The next morning we woke up in yet another hotel parking lot. With nothing to do for three days, I suggested we go to Short Mountain, a gay men's intentional community in Tennessee. (note: not just gay men live there, but it is predominately gay men, and I've always thought of it that way.) We called, but they didn't answer, so we called another (predominately) queer community called IDA ( I.D.A. means something, but I forget what, except that I think the D is for Dandy.) They're sort of an artist's community right next to Short Mountain. The phone was answered by Maxine, an extremely friendly man who basically said, “sure, just show up.”

Easier said then done, IDA, while breathtakingly beautiful, is harder to find than the human soul. Maxine's directions took two pages in my notebook, and driving there was akin to daring fate to flip our bus down a mountainside. One of the directions was (I'm not kidding) “drive though the creek bed.”

Anyway, it was worth it. IDA, and everyone who lives there, rocks. They normally have 13 people, but only 6 were there when we showed up. When the membership got down to 5, we might have been able to pull off a hostile takeover if we were so inclined… well, maybe not, they had dogs too.

If there were IDA trading cards, this is what their bio sections would look like:

Maxine: A gentle soul. Quiet and dignified. Superpower: Gardening

Pete: A talented musician and planner with limitless energy. Superpower: Infectious Laugh

Lisa: Laid back, unaccountably friendly, supreme conversationalist. Superpower: Comforting Aura

Ruby: Precocious, intelligent, supremely wise, 8. Superpower: Magic pipe cleaner animals

Matt: Kickass, open, to the point. Superpower: Baptist impersonations.

Brett: Resident mystic, an eternal well of grooviness. Superpower: Mellowness beam

Our stay at IDA was so nice that it offset that we had to use an outhouse in 15-degree weather. We also got to have dinner at Short Mountain. A tip for all of you who have never been to these two communities and wonder if there are hot people who live on communes, I have a theory that Short Mountain and IDA screen (or maybe breed) for attractiveness.

In a word, damn.

In the middle of our visit we played a gig in Cookville TN. That night it snowed deadly. Matt from IDA went with us, which made the drive fun, but I kept thinking, “no one is going to show up at this gig, why are we going?”

When we arrived at the gig, the “bar” was a tin shack attached to a warehouse. We walked in and… I have to pause to let the chills run out of me… the place was, well, it was hell, hell on earth. More confederate flags, good ole' boys at the bar (looking at us like, well, like we were the freaks we were), country music playing, auto racing on the many many TV's. They were selling tee shirts that said “you are either with us, or you're with the terrorists.” I could hear Obi-Wan's voice in my head, “run Luke run!”

“Fuck this” I said.
“We can be back in IDA in less than an hour” I said.
“Sure lets stay, and why don't I just write 'Kill me' on my forehead” I said.

I was outvoted, impending death didn't seem like a good enough reason to block, so we stayed.

The bartender said, “the boys here wanna know what kinda music you play.” I didn't think they were down with terms like “industrial” or “techno” so I said, “Heavy Metal”

“Heavy Metal Rap” said Nexus helpfully.

A rather angry looking man in a cowboy hat looking me in the eye and said, “I can do without the rap.”

“I can do without the rap.”

I asked what he would prefer we play.

“I can do without the rap.”

Three times! He said it three times, all while staring me down! I once again went into a huddle with the band (and Matt) and tried to bribe everyone, “I will buy you all dinner, and give each one of you a crisp $5 bill, if we run screaming from here.”

I, once again, was outvoted.

The promoter showed up (two hours late) and I voiced my concerns about anti-war anarchists playing in such an establishment. I asked him if he even listened to our demo or read our lyrics. “why? how bad is it?” he replied.

I managed not to hit him.

Anyway, we played the gig, for no one. The place was empty except for Matt, the other band (who didn't even play), and a few rednecks who heckled us. I spent a good part of the show screaming “yeee-ha!” and suggesting that we were going to play rawhide. I did get the “audience” to shout anarchy with us. But some of them got confused and shouted, “Canada!”

During the show a fight broke out in front of the bar. The gig ended, and we got the hell out of there.

With great regret we tore ourselves away from IDA the next day.

In a weird, convoluted way, we were able to secure a gig in Louisville at the famous BRYCC house. Little did we know that fate had dark and sinister plans for us.

WE WERE ROBBED! robbed! stolen from! The horror!

Well, seriously. I lost my guitar and my hand drum, J lost a handdrum, and we lost a rug (why would anyone take a rug?) When we realized that it was all gone for good, I remember thinking, “I guess we're not a band anymore.”

I guess I'll have to put in the most crucial detail. We weren't exactly robbed in the traditional broke-in-the-bus-and-took-our-stuff sense. I guess it was more in the pulled-over-to-the-side-of-the-road-to-add-oil-to-the-engine-and-kinda-left-our-shit-by-the-side-of-the-road sense. I mean, given that context, we sort of set up a garage sale, but for free.

I mean, we only had driven away for like 5 mins and when we came back, it was all gone. It was sad, but also kinda funny. If I heard about us, I would point and laugh. Go ahead, you know you want to.

Long story short. I borrowed a guitar from another band and we played the BRYCC house show, which went awesome, they loved us. The next day I bought a new (used) guitar and J picked up another hand drum from her parents.

Life goes on.

Next we played a show in Indiana. Looking at the town, I said, “here goes Cookeville all over again. Yee-Haw!”

I was so wrong. The show was packed with punk rock kids who cheered when we put up our anarchist flag. I played my new guitar for the first time, and the show kicked ass. After we got done playing, I noticed that my hand hurt a bit, so I washed it and went on with my night (we all crashed on the promoter's Mom's floor, it was cute.) The next day we visited my parents, and I showed them my guitar. It turns out that the bridge was kinda sharp and when I played at the show, it cut me up. The bridge was covered in blood.

I may have lied about the drug use and the alien orgies, but I am so fucking punk rock.

Next Week: Chicago, Madison, Communes!

Distaster stories from the road: Chapter 1

El Grande Musica

Macrophage, a three piece Industrial Metal Rap, uh, band consisting of J on drums, N rapping, and me playing guitar. Oh, and the fourth member, the CD player, which is pouring out all of the cool techno sounding junk that is really the core of the band. N once described us as “a karaoke band.”

I'd been planning this tour for months. But have increasingly realized (as gigs have evaporated left and right) what a bad job I've done of it. This was underlined by the fact that I was finishing up all of my final details at 5am the morning we need to leave.

Reeling from no sleep. I packed the last of my junk in the bus and crawled into our bed (you know, on the bus.) N drove, flashing the lights as our friend Dan ran along side of the bus like a puppy. Our trip down from Twin Oaks to South Carolina was so bereft of drama or tragedy as to not make interesting reporting, so imagine it in a funny spedup keystone cops kind of way.

Well, except the bus did break down briefly, but otherwise there was very little death and destruction on our journey.

I'd set up the gig with M. N, promoter and owner of a Tattoo parlor. After an easy 7 hour drive, we pulled off of 85 and began to search for the venue. The directions I'd been given said, “get off on exit #78, Club 221 is behind the truck stop.”

We searched around each of the 5 truck stops for 20 minutes, and eventually decided that one of the abandoned looking buildings might be a club. As we pulled up, we dismissed it, since it was clearly labeled “Club Latino”, with garish murals of banditos and donkeys. As we began to pull away I noticed a small sign that said “Club 221”. Our reaction to finding out that this was our venue was simultaneous, “Oh shit.”

Here is how touring band life works, as far as I can tell. The band (us, in case you forgot) shows up at 6pm (on time), and asks around in broken spanish if “Senior N” is around. He's not, so the band sits in their bus for half an hour. The sound then person shows up, and would have set up his sound system on the stage, if they had a key to open the door to let him load in. Since they don't, he sits with the band, and tells them that his son does heavy industrial music too, and they should hear him sometime. Then the key shows up, and he loads in. At around 8pm, the band is allowed to load their gear into a small room next to the stage. I'm sorry… next to the HUGEMONGOUS stage, Jesus this place is big! Anyway, the opening bands show up, by my watch, 2 hours late, and THEN Mike Necro arrives.

The first band sounded roughly like “RarrrarBlahBlah-RarrarGrrrr-BlahBlahBlah”, N thought they sounded pretty good, J thought the drummer was good, I thought it sounded like the audio equivalent to the stuff you find in unwashed toilets.

The second band had songs like “cold dead bitch” and “hot black chicks”. The audience liked them bunches, which I didn't think boded well for us, with our songs of tolerance and community building.

Frankly, Mr. N must have not done a perfect job of promoting the show. By the time we went on, the audience has reached it's peak, 16 grumpy looking punk men.

I think our set started well. I had written intro music that started us off with crazy breakbeats and techno, we came on the stage full of punk rage, and it all culminated in a sample from a movie saying, “You are a fanatic, an Anarchist!” and we dropped into our first song.

N's microphone was dead. I could see him emoting, jumping and yelling, but he might as well have been Marcel Marceau for all the sound that was coming out. We paused after the first song while they sorted out N's mic. I said, “Thank you for coming… both of you.” When we started the second song, we could hear N pretty well in between the waves of feedback coming from his mic.

The rest of the show was an hour of us not being able to hear the backing tracks at all.

Let me explain this to you. The backing tracks are recorded on a CD and play at a consistent set tempo. When we can't hear them, we often play at a DIFFERENT tempo then the tracks. This makes us sound vaguely like your average junior high school marching band.

I feel that the real highlight of the show was my connection with the audience. Here is a snippet of our dialog. (After the song “Misegenate”, which suggests that people should mate interracially.)

Me: “Does anyone know what Miscegenation is?”
Audience: [silence]
Me: “…come on, anyone, ten point question.”
Audience: [silence]
N: “There will be a test.”
Audience: [silence]
Me: “Ok, miscegenation is a legal term from the 1800?s, basically the law said that black and white people couldn?t legally marry, or have children.”
Audience Member: “Like, you mean, I couldn?t have sex with Halle Berry?”
Me: “Um, yes sir, yes that would be true.”
Audience Member: “Well I ain?t down with that.”
Me: “…ok, next song.”

We finished our set, packed, were handed a whopping $45 for our troubles, and got the hell out of there. Later that night we slept in our bus, parked in the back of a hotel parking lot. We used our flashlight to charge the star stickers on the roof, and drifted off to sleep, professional musicians.

Next week: Ashville North Carolina, Queer Community, and Tennessee punk rawk…