Speed Freaks

September 16th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

San Francisco to Portland–Thursday, Sept 14

We barely make it back. The last three hours we’re limping along—pounding M and M’s and Gummi Worms to stay awake.

At 2:00 AM, we are finally, finally home again.

The instant we pull in the driveway, I wish we could do it all again.

Just kidding.

Fire on the Mountain

September 16th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

LA to San Francisco–Wednesday, September 13

We get to have breakfast with Deb, who is about to present her current artwork to a committee at her grad school. She barely touches her food due to nerves.

Forest fires are making I-5 hard to navigate, so we take 101 instead;
I’ve always wanted to do this route anyway, and it turns out to be well worth it with all the scenery.

Back to San Fran, where we are comforted by Evan and Chris, our hosts,
and their two dogs, Calvin and Clementine. We go to Emmy’s and get
spaghetti and meatballs, the thing I hadn’t known I was craving but is absolute perfection.

Wallaby Station

September 16th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Willcox, AZ to Los Angeles–Tuesday, September 12

We make it to LA and back to Deb’s house but not before hitting the Cabazon Outlets. Nick finally scores his Wallabees, and I want some pink ones for myself but decide they make my feet look like hockey pucks. No fair.

I fall asleep the second we walk in the door of Deb’s apartment.

Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner

September 16th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Sonora, TX to Willcox, AZ–Monday, September 11

I finish the column early in the morning, half watching the 5th anniversary necrophilic frenzy that we call news coverage. Between the grimness, I can’t stop talking about how much I love our hotel. Nick makes fun of me, and I realize that what I’m so euphoric about is that we had another successful tour and I did a good job on the column. It’s like I won the lottery or something.

We become obsessed with souvenirs, since we’ve bought nothing on the trip so far. There are these massive souvenir stands all the way to Arizona, which have ten billboards leading up to them, like Wall Drug. We pull off at the first, sensitively called the Running Indian. Inside is an orgy of crap—fake rattlesnake eggs, maracas, piggy banks, tomahawks, copper jewelry, taffy. It’s hard to choose, but I buy some maracas for Alex Shee Bee Gee and a beaded Native American style bracelet that says Heather. Nick buys ten postcards, including some Old West ones. “Our close relatives were in the James Gang,” he says. “Really?” I say, “Why haven’t you ever told me that?!” He rolls his eyes. “Every time I tell you, you ask why I’ve never told you before.” I promise to remember this time.

In the parking lot, I notice my bracelet is made in Taiwan.

We crash in Willcox, AZ, after eating in the Hopi Lounge, where two glasses of cheap Chardonnay turn me into a babbling idiot.

Back in the room, Dirty Dancing is on the television. We sing along with the Swayze gem, “She’s Like the Wind.”

Hope Springs Eternal

September 16th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Austin to Sonora, TX–Sunday Sept 10

Despite staying up past 4, I wake early again, to work. But I’m still not done with the job, so we have decided to make an emergency schedule change—we will drive a couple of hours and check into a hotel so that I can have steady phone/cell access to finish.

But first we spend the morning with friends. Nick goes to breakfast with friends, and I get tacos with Lawrence, Audrey and Andy, my Austin Hosts. They take me swimming at a place called Barton Springs, a natural-fed pool. I haven’t been swimming at a pool in years, and even thought I’m all lame in shorts and a tank top, I feel like a happy little kid.

Then we say goodbye and leave. The whole drive to Sonora, I feel warm inside. The dusk is purplish pink, dreamlike. This may be the best trip I’ve ever taken.

The Whiteness of the Whale

September 16th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Austin–Saturday, September 9

I wake up three hours before everyone else, in order to work—see previous entry for latest screwup.

My friend from college, an aspiring Texas politician, picks us up at the palatial digs and takes us out to breakfast at a place that Bill Clinton loves (he even has a dish named after him—El Presidente). After that we drive around Austin, which is beautiful. First, we tour the capital. The building is spectacular, bigger than the nation’s capital (Texas!). The exterior is pink and there are stars everywhere—the ceiling, the fence, the floor, the walls. You could eat off the marble floors. Next we go to Mount Bunnell to get a view of the city. The collection of beer bottles in the bushes implies that this is high school party central.

We go home and get ready for the show that night at Emo’s. As I’m getting dressed, I pull a quick phoner with a tshirt designer (see above).

We are scheduled on a cool radio show called Ear Candy, so before load-in, we hit the studio. Our friend Ramesh from Voxtrot shows up, which is good because he has more to say than we do. Any story I can think to share with the listeners is inappropriate for public consumption. Our brains are mush. An old friend of Nick’s calls in and announces she will be coming to the show. Last time Nick saw her, she was living in Montreal—he keeps asking if this is a joke.

There is a huge football game going on—UT vs OSU, which has turned the entire area of the club into a terrifying sea of orange-clad beer swillers. After load-in we
try to find a place to get some food and a drink. But every bar is packed with football fans.

Finally, after wandering in circles for half an hour, we find a modest little tea house. It is creepily deserted, except for one other group of customers. “White Whale,” I say to Nick, referring to the band we’re opening for. I have no idea what White Whale look like, but have learned that bands often cross paths in a city because we’re all looking for the same two things—record albums and decent food.

The owners of the restaurant are so sweet and make us a special flavor of bubble tea that involves taro. We stay there forever, so happy to have peace and quiet and some healthy Korean food.

Back at the club, Emo’s, my new Austin friends have shown up—after drinking all day. They are totally fired up, and hilarious. The Longhorns’ loss has put a damper on the whole 6th Street corridor, so these folks’ wild energy is like a public service at this point.

The whole roster tonight is awesome, and White Whale in particular blow my mind. We meet some really great people afterwards, especially a woman named
Mikele who has driven four hours to see us because she was convinced we’d never visit Texas. I buy a White Whale tshirt because a) the graphic looks like the creature from The Neverending Story b) I have no more clean clothes.

Intriguing bathroom graffiti: “Women who date married men should never wear mascara.”

Tonight is the single most hellish load out experience of my life. The Longhorns fans and a large rap concert have simultaneous discharged onto one street. The sidewalks are swarming like I’ve never seen before; this must be what Mardi Gras is like. As we carry load after load out the club and to the car–parked a black away–I’m getting shoved, blocked, yelled at. It takes us over an hour to travel the 3 miles home, but we’re alive.

Communication Breakdown

September 12th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Mesilla, NM to Austin, TX–Friday, Sept 8

We hit a place called the Bean on the way out of town to get coffee; it’s nice to find some good coffee that’s not Starbuck’s. After El Paso, there’s just nothing. I’ve only driven this long with no signs of life once before—through central British Columbia.

After we cross the Texas state line, Nick turns to me and says, “It’s weird, but I keep feeling the urge to ‘mess’ with this place.”

We’re getting really loopy and stupid, having had no privacy for over a week now. While I’m air drumming to The Creation, Nick starts laughing. “What?” I say. He says, “You just stopped mid drumming and started flexing your biceps.”

As I’m getting spotty phone reception I get a call from my editor at the Tribune. Through the static, I gather she wants to know where my column is. I’m baffled. “It’s due Thursday.” I say. Long Pause. “No, it was due yesterday,” she says. My heart freezes. I hang up and start hyperventilating. Nick pulls over in Ozona, so I can gather my thoughts. I put my head in my hands and try to cry—this is terrible–but I can’t.

I started rifling through the car looking for the press releases I need. Every call I make is dropped. Finally, I just stare, catatonic, like the guy in Ferris Bueller when his dads car gets trashed.

When I regain consciousness, I notice we’re in front of the town square. There’s a sign for the David Crockett memorial, and a strange couple are walking a pair of leashed cats in front of a statue of Mr. Crockett. Nick wants to go ask the Crockett Museum what the difference is between Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone, if it’s like Sasquatch versus Bigfoot, but decides to go photograph the town gunsmith instead. I stew in my misery.

We roll into Austin around 9 o’clock and are presented our digs for the next few days. The huge upper floor of a gorgeous, historic house. Score.

We get sent to barbeque joint down the road—brisket and greens. Delicious. Then we go to lodge in the trees, called the Spider House. Lots of kids are drinking mochas. I keep trying to take a photo of the sign, which looks like 60s Disneyland, but it’s all blurry.

Later we go to a bar. Everyone there—friends of friends mostly–is partying, really warm and welcoming. We sit at a giant picnic table in the open air. At three AM, we get tacos al pastor. We go to bed full and happy–I’ve managed to temporarily forgert how completely screwed I am.

Sack, Fifth Avenue

September 8th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Blythe, California to Mesilla, NM—Thurs September 7

The car is sparkling clean and water is beaded up everywhere—on the streets, the hood. Debris covers the pavement. The storm was not exaggerated by our delirium. A black kitten slinks in front of the car as we’re packing up.

Nick has never seen the American Southwest. He keeps gasping and pointing at the purple mountains, at the cacti that he says look like cartoons.

We pause in Tucson because I know a good place to eat—Café Poca Cosa. First, we hit the tourist board for postcards and directions. I’ve never been to a tourist board before. What a concept.

Pulling into Mesilla, we spot an odd shape swinging beneath the tow hitch on the rear of a black pickup. Further examination reveals it to be a ball sack; that’s right, a scrotum, rendered in lifelike pink latex. It jiggles over potholes, sways gently at stop signs.

Our show is fun; I worry we’re too loud for the space, but oh well. Afterwards, we try hard to be party animals. (We’re missing merch man Mike badly at this point—he’d be rallying.) After one beer we notice two side-by-side drain mats—one for Crown Royal and the other for Jager. Memories come flooding back. The place has $2 calls and so everyone keeps staggering to the bar and walking away with Jager, fumes wafting past our noses. This drives us out the door in no time.

I forgot to mention that every person we met in LA was so freaking nice. Our waitress at breakfast, the other people in the gelato line, everyone. I thought LA was supposed to be Sodom and Gomorrah. After meeting even nicer people in Mesilla, I mention to Nick how if you just go about your normal life—traffic and the post office and the DMV–you can start to think people are real assholes. But in truth, the world is full of really, really nice people. It’s humbling.

And maybe this is the squarest tour blog ever written.

Desert Solitaire

September 8th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Los Angeles to New Mexico—Wednesday September 6

We dawdle like hell getting out of town. First we look for coffee, but then we find food—real food–and decide to eat the known quantity here rather than seek it out the unknown later. Our menu orders hedge against the future, a sort of anticipatory eating. For example, I am in no mood for oatmeal, but it seems relatively healthy, so I grab it, to combat the upcoming white flour carnival. Nick gets all four food groups in the blue plate special—meatloaf, mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and broccoli. I’m pissed.

Then we shop a little. I contemplate a pair of vintage Frye boots, but the store owner makes me try them on one at a time, using a plastic bag as a foot condom. Is this standard in LA? I pass on the boots, due to insufficient data. Nick ogles a pair of Pumas—he’s cheating on the Clarks Wallaby’s due to their hard-to-get routine. LA has been relatively dead since we got here, perhaps due to a post-labor day lull. But we are served up some hard-core traffic on our way out, delaying us even further.

We give up in Blythe, California, much earlier than we hoped. Our required fight starts up, about Nick’s reluctance to keep driving and my inability to drive. We agree on 5:30 as the wake-up time. The hotel room has cable, so we alternate between the preposterous all-star movie Twister, and the newest addition to the Cartoon Network, Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

In the middle of the night a gigantic storm rips through and wakes us. The whole building is shaking—out the windows, the rain is blown horizontal by the high winds. We have a term for this sort of epic, apocalyptic environmental behavior, due to our obsession with a particular movie. “War of the Worlds,” Nick croaks, and lays back down.

We Love It!!!!!

September 6th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Los Angeles–Tuesday Sept 5

We decided to take advantage of our day off by partaking of cultural opportunities. First we hit the La Brea tar pits, with the primary ambition of picking up some sweet postcards. Instead, we get some funny photos of ourselves. That place is in dire need of better merch. I was dying to spend money in there and couldn’t find one thing to buy.

Next we go to LACMA. We have just missed the Hockney exhibit, but we still see some great modern art, and some beautiful older European work. My favorite is the display of 18th century glass. All the Dutch oil still lifes, replete with oysters and cherries and lobsters, are making me starving.

Next we go to the Hammer to check out some stop-motion animation (Nick’s other love.) The guard, who has a New York accent, asks, “Do you need parking validation, or has someone driven you here?” Normally, I might think we looked important or something, but I have a feeling it’s par for the course.

I swear I spot Jim Carrey next to me in traffic, but he catches me looking so I have to look away. A license plate in front of us reads YRU TENZ. The same car’s rear view mirror holds a dream catcher. Yet is a spanking new, black BMW convertible.

I guess I don’t understand LA.

Vietnamese food. Gelato. Curb Your Enthusiasm. Who needs groupies?

Day of Labor

September 6th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

San Francisco to Los Angeles–Monday September 4th

Due to labor day traffic, we spend the entire day in the car.

We pull off at Kettleman City, the halfway point between the two cities. We’ve been waiting for In N Out burger for hours. This place has become legendary in our band lore because last summer, on an identical stop at this very In N Out Burger, Nick was unwittingly teabagged by a clogged and overflowing toilet.

We roll into our friend Deb’s place later than I would like. She has snacks galore, and lots of water, which we are sorely in need of at this point. My urine has resembled Tang for days.

Spaceland is a very nice place. The crowd is unusually good-looking. I befriend another band; they are obsessed with 90210 (evidently the entire show is coming out soon on box set!) and tip me off about LA tourist activities and the local roller derby scene.

As we are loading out, a man is selling tamales from a cooler. Score. This will be the first time I haven’t gone to bed ravenous in at least a week. (I was burning the candle at both ends long before we left Portland).

We try to watch VH1 but our eyes won’t stay open.

Still Flyin

September 6th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

San Francisco–Sunday Sept 3

Today, Nick’s birthday, no one gets up until 5 PM. Nick informs me that we’re now officially on Motley Crue time.

I keep getting phone calls, giving me fever dreams about being a loser who stays in bed all day. Finally, feeling like a degenerate, I hit redial for the last number, which is local. The person who picks up identifies himself as Michael. We talk for fifteen minutes and then I ask if he’s bringing his wife to our show. “Who?” he says. “I don’t have a wife.” At that moment I realize I am talking to another Michael, one I haven’t spoken to in about seven years. I’m on a roll.

Our show is sloppy. Sloppy, but really fun. The audience is raucous, bordering on harassing. We love it.

Still Flyin is truly incredible. The idea—a fifteen person, indie rock reggae band–sounds intriguing, and comes off brilliantly, mostly due to the fact that they are complete party animals. On stage, some of them can barely stand up, yet the music sounds terrific. The entire audience is smiling and dancing. After the show, we see a girl from the band puking in the alley. Yoshi seems unfazed and tells me blandly that at least one person pukes at every show.

This is the most fun I’ve had in ages.

LOST, the series

September 6th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Chico to San Francisco, Saturday Sept. 2

Jason and Connie have a toy poodle named Honey. She looks like a lamb. In the morning, as usual, I am the first band person to rise. I take Honey for a walk in the woods across from the house. It is surreal: I am in my show clothes, my red lipstick still staining my lips, walking a toy poodle in the woods of Chico, California in the early morning. Who am I?

We eat the Cap’n Crunch Connie so kindly bought. I opt out of the shower, wanting to get our from under foot ASAP. (I will clean up at a rest area two hours south.) Somehow, Steve and Pixie pull out of the driveway first, with Pixie playing the recorder in the passenger seat.

I am already starving again, so we eat a second breakfast in town. After that we go to a record store and score Nancy Sinatra, Beach Boys, Bee Gees Odessa with velvet record jacket, two Muppet Show posters, and a cassette of Replacements’ Tim, for when the ipod dies.

We get lost in San Francisco, because we always get lost in San Francisco—it’s the rule.

Finally, we arrive at Yoshi’s. Yoshi and his roommate Marjan make living here look so appealing. They have a massive apartment with those awesome curved windows, a spare room, and a healthy dose of fog curling in the air. Tomorrow night, we have a show scheduled with Yoshi’s band, Still Flyin. Since this will be Nick’s birthday, and we will have responsibilities, I declare that we must celebrate in advance. We walk around the Haight looking for Clark’s Wallabys, the shoes I want to get Nick for his birthday, to no avail. We eat burritos instead.

Later, at the bar, I keep buying Nick shots of Jagermeister, cackling as I deliver them. For some reason, Yoshi and I decide drinking Crown Royal at 4AM is a good idea. Decline of Western Civilization Part Two is on the television; it’s a documentary all about hair metal bands who are sure they’re going to make it, they just HAVE to (yet we the viewers know they never will). To stave off the potential larger implications/existential crises the show might trigger, I take another glass of whiskey as a prophylactic.

California Love

September 6th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Chico–Friday September 4

We try to leave Portland as early as possible, but as usual, we take much longer than expected. Even waking up at the ghastly hour of 6:00 AM (I played a show with Shee Bee Gees the night before) we don’t hit the road until after 10:30. There’s the dog to be dropped off, food to find, the triple checking of our packing list. Last tour, I held on to the idea of eating well, long after I had crossed over into survival mode, but this time we’re honest: it’s Burgerville for breakfast. I contemplate getting an espresso milkshake—asking if they make them this early–but Nick advises against it. All day I will mourn the ghost of this lost milkshake.

We pull into Chico a bit later than we like, but the headlining band is still 2 hours behind us. As long as there’s someone worse off than us. . . I called before we arrived to apologize for our tardiness and Connie, the wife of the show organizer Jason, offered us a place to stay and went so far as to ask what I like for breakfast.

After we play, someone tells us that he’s been listening to “Le Projet Citron” for the last year, never knowing who sang it. He had assumed that we were covering the song live. He says, “You mean YOU wrote that song? No Way!!”

The last band is the single weirdest band I’ve ever seen. In a good way. A woman who goes by Pixie sings and “plays” a lamp hung with windchimes. While accompanied by guitar, she holds her ears and writhes around. It’s spooky, made even spookier by her truly incredible voice.

Outside of the venue I notice they too are in a normal car—theirs an eighties-era Chevy Nova which is smashed in the back. Steve the guitarist says they got rear-ended on the highway. A car was barreling up behind them and Steve tried to pull aside but the car smashed him anyway. Now, two months into a four month tour, they have no way to open the hatchback. They load their heavy gear into the backseat over the folded-down front seat. “Were they drunk?” I ask. “More like on acid,” Steve says. “Or both—drunk and on acid.” Pixie says, “Yeah, that’s like the military.” She pauses. “Just like a lizard.”

We all end up staying at Jason and Connie’s even though Jason and Connie are trying to get to San Francisco early the next day. I am once again reminded of the unreasonableness of this lifestyle. These are hard-working people who just want to take a quick vacation, and yet they are kept up and crowded by four freaks sprawled on their living room floor, overrunning their bathroom, raiding their food. Back at the venue, I had spoken with a woman Renee who had hosted our last show in Chico, at her record store. Recently, she finally closed the store after years of crushing bills. She was spending a couple thousand a month to keep it open. She’d work a day job and then go to the store and host shows until three in the morning, then get up and do it all again. Her subsistence was bulk bags of beans and rice. And she wasn’t complaining—in fact, she’s just resting so she can dive back in. She loves music that much.

Going down the only road I’ve ever known

August 31st, 2006

Posted in tha road by Nicholas |

Thursday, August 31-Portland

Just firing up the ol’ tour blog and getting ready to hit the road tomorrow…and we’ll be chronicling the whole thing for you again. I say “we”, but it will probably mostly be Heather, as it seems to usually work out that way. Hopefully, we’ll see some of you out there!

-nicholas

leaving on a jet plane

June 23rd, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Friday June 23–New York

I get to fly home, which is unfair but logistically necessary. The fact is, I am a bit jealous of what the boys will do without me–shocking. I figured I’d be waving and cackling, “Suckers!!!” as they dropped me off at JFK.

My last pre-departure event, marking the threshold between tour and my “real life,” is having lunch with my good friend Valerie. I meet her uptown, at Django, where her brother is executive chef. He styles us with an outrageously decadent four course meal. I really could cry with joy over the food and the company.

We are so grateful for the staggering generosity of all of those who aided and abetted on this tour: Yoshi, Zach T., Mom, Dad, Mikey, Meghan and Jake, Crystal and Mary, Andrew and Claire, Alex, Jeff, Ben, Zach, Val and Andrew, Ellen SBG, and all of our friends and supporters in each city who came out to see us play. And, as always, our #1 booster, Mr. Charlie.

Things I have learned:
1) Freaking out is never the solution.
2) I will forget #1 every time.
3) Nothing is ever entirely good nor bad.
4) Seeing #3 as a relief is the most useful perspective.
5) Money is a trick; it is impossible to put a price on most things that matter—such as hospitality, creativity, support, fun.
6) I trust my brother more than anyone in the world.
7) Having Mike along was a huge blessing, although I think he is crazy for coming.
8) True generosity or kindness (as in #7) is always a bit baffling, but that’s the beauty of it.
9) Most things worth experiencing are totally unreasonable, impossibly inefficient and labor intensive. For example: love, friendship, being in a band.
10) Going on tour is an utterly insane thing to do. See #9.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Over and out.

Love,
Heather
June 23, 2006

im going back to new york city, i do believe i’ve had enough

June 23rd, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Thursday June 22–New York

Have you ever noticed that when you have to pee badly, it gets ten times worse right as the bathroom is in reach? Then the key sticks in the front door lock, just to amplify the panic? That is how I feel.

I’m not sure whether to be distraught that my voice is screwed for our final show (in New York no less) or be grateful that it has lasted this long. I launch a campaign to minimize talking for the whole day, which is boring and makes me feel antisocial, turtle-ish.

We roll out of Philly around one, much later than expected, stung by the US’s defeat against Ghana. This late departure means no tourism in New York, but since I’m trying to minimize both energy and vocal expenditures, it’s probably for the best.

We make a logistical error and end up sitting in a coffee shop for 90 minutes, just hoping one of Nick’s old roommates comes home to let us in their apartment, so we can clean up before the show. I keep whispering to the boys, “We only have to stay alive for four more hours.”

At the club, we find out we’ve been pushed back an hour, which soon becomes two hours. While the boys talk to their friends, I lay in the sweltering car in front of the club. People are leaning on it, smoking, yelling outside the windows, but I’m trying to nap and stay calm, not to talk. I feel like I’m set on a timer and when it goes off, I will collapse like a rag doll. The duration of the timer is mysterious. Thus each delay makes me very nervous.

Finally, it’s time.

Lots of friends come out for us, and even though I have a hard time singing, I don’t care because people are cheering us on. It may not be the best technical show we’ve done—and our set get cuts short by the sound man due to the behind schedule–but it’s the wildest show energy-wise. Afterwards, Nick and I hug and I wonder why we don’t do that after every show. We did it we did it we did it we did it.

Just a band and its will to surviiiiiiiive

June 23rd, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Wednesday June 21–Philadelphia

My throat starts hurting first thing. It feels familiar, as if I’ve been waiting for this all along. Only two more shows to go; hopefully, I can limp it home like an ailing car, block by block.

I nap in the hotel while the boys go in pursuit of a famous cheese steak. They bring me back one, but tell me they have misgivings, that the cheese steak joint might be really racist, that it had plaques honoring the officer shot by Mumia, etc. We find out later that this is a well-known racist cheese steak joint.

A homeless man calls Mike “Rocky.” As in “Got any change, Rocky?” Mike is slight and a redhead. Perhaps that’s the default address here, like Hoss or Boss or Man.

The Standard Tap is a 200 year-old space, beautiful and glowing with warmth; you can feel that people have been having a good time here for centuries. The person we’re playing the show with tells us that this bar has only recently started hosting shows. Normally this would be terrifying, but in this case it’s intriguing.

The stage is very small, an arched alcove, and we have to rig up my kick drum so that it’s hanging off the front, in order to accommodate the whole set. I have fantasies about kicking it into the audience on the last song. A couple of songs get bailed on because of my throat, but it’s the most fun we’ve had on stage, with a head bobbing audience who knows the words. Every person seems 100% like they want to be here, like they’re in it for the night.

After the Midwest the Dandy mentions dwindled, but have now been replaced by Counting Crows references about Omaha. We get two of these tonight.

To me, the difference between a person who makes art and an Artist is not the quality or quantity of what they produce, but their orientation to the world. They are like aliens our planet gets to borrow. Kurt Vile, who headlines the show, is an Artist. He is a crazy cocktail of seemingly incompatible elements—looks like Robert Plant, sings like Dylan and Jagger, plays like Sebadoh Freed Weed era and early Liz Phair. When I compliment the show he says, cryptically, “It gets worse every time.” He gives me two CDs and, along with them, the sense he is insanely prolific.
.
I befriend a guy named Patrick and because I am a singing drummer, we discuss Don Henley and both admit how much we like him. Perhaps, Patrick offers, Henley has too many “yes men” around, and this results in too many un-questioned musical choices, subverting his shot at worldwide domination. We make a plan to start a club called Henley’s, where only Henley’s music can be played. Henley himself will give regular live shows. We decide a California beach is the best Henleyesque location, but that there are obvious franchise opportunities and soon we will evangelize the whole country. Henley himself, of course, will be deeply grateful.

Kurt Vile’s posse has brought its own turntables and records, and once he’s done, they hold court in the red, womblike room, full of the totally game, totally onboard, crowd. Springsteen comes on and we laugh about how perfect, cliché even, that is in Philly. Who would have thought that the indie kids actually do love the Boss? Soon, the DJ quits pretending anyone wants to hear anything but the Boss, and the night turns into a total Springsteen fest. Everyone is dancing, going crazy. Patrick is not only a Henley devotee but an unbelievable dancer, whose style is a hybrid of Springsteen himself and Westside Story. He incorporates chairs into his routine, kicking off them like a donkey and swooping his leg over the backs. As a matter of fact, a lot of people start incorporating chairs. Patrick gets a glass shard in his hand when I show him how to do a vaudevillian dance move called a “coffee grinder.” As people get drunker, chairs go flying, and the waitress keeps saying, “All right, I’m shutting this party down,” but then she stops to dance.

I leave with a renewed appreciation of the Boss and in awe of how cool the people in Philly are. This is the most fun we’ve had on the whole tour, hands down.

In bed, the fun dissipates and I am unable to sleep, swallowing compulsively to gauge how screwed my throat is. Now it’s not just my throat—I’m officially sick. I pray we don’t have to cancel tomorrow.

Hot Shit

June 21st, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Tuesday June 20–Buffalo/NY Day off

Buffalo to New York is longer than I think, but once we emerge from the Holland Tunnel, the city lights are energizing. Nick is the most competent driver I’ve ever met, swerving expertly and narrowly missing cab after cab. We pull in front of his old apartment around 9 o’clock and go to dinner with his old roommates. Mike eats a double cheeseburger, just to fully cement the stagnant load in his colon, which is growing so enormous, we had considered declaring it at the border. I feel for our dinner guests, since our level of discourse has devolved. We talk shit—literally–most of the time.

My second glass of wine knocks me out; my body is obviously spending most of its resources keeping me upright, leaving little left over for the processing of alcoholic beverages. The walk home is nice, but New York is starting to stink. The first time I ever came to New York was at this same time of year, June, with my college boyfriend. We were hanging out with a bunch of friends in a downstairs bar, and this older Russian guy kept forcing us to drink shots of vodka. I started stealthily pouring them into the pockets on the pool table, but my boyfriend wasn’t so lucky. Leaving, we all waited for him at the top of the stairs to the street. A garbage truck idled out front, and being fresh from Colorado, I was shocked by how foul the city smelled: everything hot, fetid, and reeking. My boyfriend finally stumbled up the stairs, took one deep sniff, and puked everywhere.

And that’s the truth, ththtpppppt.

Buffalo Soldiers

June 20th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Monday June 19–Buffalo

We hit Tim Hortons one more time on the way out of Canada. The landscape at the border is unbelievably beautiful, eerie with inlets and small forested islands. Crossing the border makes us very nervous, and as we’re driving away I can’t find our IDs. I pull over panicked and Nick and I explode into a huge fight from the buildup of stress over the last two weeks. It’s ugly, and afterwards I feel inexorably lonely.

Mapquest has a tragically incorrect entry for the club in Buffalo (the club has written 6 letters to the website trying to get it corrected) so we end up in a grandma neighborhood about 15 miles from the club. This is probably the only time bad directions are a relief, as it means we are not playing a show in a remote patch of ranch houses just off the highway.

We set an all-time record for the longest navigational/logistical goat rodeo. Our ETA for the club is 6PM; we roll in at 8 and they want to know where we’ve been. I’m begging telepathically, Please just be nice to us, or I’m going to completely lose my shit. And the wish is granted. We meet the other performers, Marianne Dissard and Naim Amor and their bands, who are just lovely, lovely people in all ways. The club is dark and sexy, very chic, and has a backstage where I can clean up. They’ve scheduled the night as a Francophilic extravaganza, as Marianne and Naim and both French singer/songwriters (via Tucson).

We play perhaps the best we’ve played all tour, and even if the audience is sedate, more prepared for Marianne and Naim than our garagey wailings, they are warm and kind. The Soundlab is my new favorite club (I’m fickle, I know).

Afterwards, we ask some local boys about Buffalo’s famous bands—they list Goo Goo Dolls, Rick James, Mary J Blige, and then tell me about some local band named, like, Fx7 that beats up other bands as a pastime, a second arena of distinction and talent. This is an exciting prospect, since our combined band weight is under 250.

As I’m walking back to the hotel alone, a cab driver honks and slows down. Suddenly, it dawns on me he thinks I’m a hooker, in my red lipstick, black dress, and sequined vest, so I flip him off (like that’s the international ‘I’m not a hooker’ signal).

In the morning, I get called a “dickhead”—by a woman!!–when I walk in front of her car as she’s trying to park. The streets of Buffalo and I are evidently having issues.

Les Francofolies

June 20th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Sunday June 18–Montreal

We have the day off, and fully intend to take advantage of an opportunity to do Francophone record shopping. But first Andrew makes us breakfast, as if having three virtual strangers and all their gear strewn about was an insufficient act of generosity. We hit three stores and find a jackpot. Tons of record singles—France Gall, Francoise Hardy, and Jacques Dutronc, and a Harmonium (70s Quebecois prog rock) album with a trippy butterfly drawing on the jacket. At Primitive, we meet Marie who informs us that the Michel Polnareff album Nick has in his hands is a huge steal. She gave it up from her own collection just this morning because she felt she “didn’t deserve it”. She is happy it will be traveling all the way to Portland, and recommends the store across the street, called Francophonies. As we leave she says, “Don’t be scared of the Celine Dion.” That was an understatement, as the store is an unofficial Celine Dion Museum, with about ten glass cases full of Celine paraphernalia, including her first albums, her perfumes, a complete discography, around 100 photos, and menus from her Montreal diner, called “Nickels”. I hope she knows about this place and visits regularly, as this man clearly wins the #1 fan award. More scores abound here, including a sweet Dutronc single, on which he looks like a Vegas Magician in his tux and mustache.

We get smoothies. They hit the spot, although our bodies might be confused by the introduction of fruit and vitamins. The boys note that the girls here are gorgeous, including the woman who made the smoothies.

A small crowd has gathered around Café Barouf to watch the France/Korea game from the street. We stand with them for a while but leave before Korea scores, thankfully.

The Fringe Festival is going on, and somehow this translates into a ten block long sidewalk sale, punctuated by drink tents. The main goods for sale appear to be socks, mangoes on a stick, and women’s sunglasses. Brazil has won in soccer, so people in green and yellow are having parades, impromptu dance parties, honking, screaming, all day long.

Claire, Andrew’s partner, makes butter chicken for dinner and rhubarb pie. We’ve won the kindness lottery.

I wonder how one orchestrates a move to Montreal from, say, Portland. . .

Jolie Laide

June 20th, 2006

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Saturday June 17–Montreal

I am obsessed with Tim Hortons, so I force us to walk around looking for one. We fail, and finally settle on Starbucks. Mike spills his coffee as we’re loading the car so we get to stop at Tim Hortons anyway. Well, I was the one who set it on the amp. . .

I guess it is time to explain about loading. Perhaps a few, or many of you are in a band, but I’m assuming many also are not, so here’s a peek. My least favorite part of being in a band is loading, which is a huge proportion of the time one spends. For example, let’s say we have a show in Portland. This means that we need to allow about 20 minutes to pack up the equipment at home. Then, the car gets backed into the driveway and all of the gear is packed into it. Another 20 min. Then we drive to the club, where we need to first send an emissary in to make sure there is an appropriate place to load. Then we park illegally while we load. With two people it’s sort of tedious because one person needs to watch the stuff, leaving the other to do all of the hauling. For this reason, we usually take shifts. Then, after the gear is loaded in, Nick finds a parking place. Next is the task of setting up onstage. This takes us about twenty minutes. For my drums, which are very minimal, that means setting up four drums, three cymbals configurations and one pedal. You can’t just throw them together. Ergonomics and replicating the set up I’m accustomed to are crucial, so I may keep moving things an inch here or there, over and over again. Sometimes, when the club has an official sound check, we have to set up and then break down again, to make room for another band to sound check. (Which means we set up again when it’s our turn to play the show.) Once we play, we then have to break down the equipment again, pull the car around, take turns loading out, pack, and bring it all home again. Then the next day we have to set up again to practice. So, for example, for a 30 minute set, one might spend an hour and a half to two hours loading and setting up.

When you stay overnight somewhere, it is wise to bring the gear inside if possible. As I write this, we’re staying on a 3rd floor walk up, so imagine. Then our kind hosts have all this gear in their apartment. The Toronto hotel was on the 9th floor, so we had to get two luggage carts and do shifts. It’s pretty easy to spill a coffee in that situation, especially if you’ve set it down on a wobbling cart. This is why I got to go to Tim Hortons, for a second coffee. Yay for loading!

We pull over after a couple of hours because the boys want to see the US / Italy match. The town is beautifully quaint and is called Brockville. Coincidentally, the bar’s satellite radio plays “Don’t Go Back to (B)rockville” on the stereo while we’re there—or maybe it’s a hint. The place is jammed with rugby players and rugby boosters, who are wearing hawaiian shirts and funny hats. They stagger periodically to the bar, with black eyes and bum knees. One asks the waitress to fill a rugby boot with tap beer. A minute later they start singing and force a team mate to slam the foot flavored beer. I keep trying to engage them because I am bored by soccer. One guys wanders up with a penis-shaped hat. Of course I have to ask. He explains that the biggest loser of the game has to wear the hat. What did he do? He took a job in another province.

US ties. We leave.

I start reading aloud from Motely Crue’s The Dirt, one of my favorite “lite” books of all time (Go buy it NOW.) The band at one point calls groupies “human entertainment.” The boys think this is so funny, and will now refer to it as “H.E.”

When we enter Quebec, for some reason I’m shocked when all the signs are in French, Nick keeps pretending not to understand them. Like–, “Wha? Toon-ell? I need to find a tun-nel!!” We are tired so this is hilarious.

Montreal is very old-looking, go figure, and seductive, like an older French woman. The first person on the street I see is wearing a vintage-style sailor suit.

The gig is at a club called L’Escogriffe, which is an underground, stone=walled place with a cool marquee, which our names are on(!). We play with two country/rockabilly bands, and have our first real “dancer” (who gets kicked out) and our first heckler. He keeps asking questions of us onstage, like, “Did you really come all the way from Portland? Why are you so eighties influenced? What kind of amp is that?” Finally, I have to do something, so I say, “Wow, our first heckler. Exciting!” He is hurt and embarrassed, denies that he is heckling. Then he skulks out. Bad Flirt show up to cheer us on, our first band friends in Canada.

Bloodshot Bill is up after us and he sounds uncannily like Wanda Jackson. I hadn’t known one could get that sort of guitar sound these days. The label guys tell us he played 250 shows last year. This makes him an alien to me, another species.

Afterwards, we go back to Andrew’s, where we are staying. I sleep while the boys go looking for trouble. They fail.

We wake at 1:00 PM the next day, sweating in the bright sunlight, not knowing where we are.

Played it ’til my fingers bled

June 18th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Friday June 16–Toronto

This tour is profoundly altering my sense of the universe. It seems there is a great cosmic equalizer at work, and thus nothing is ever totally shitty, nor totally good. It may be the first time in my life I, an Olympic-level bitcher, am fighting the urge to put a “good” or “bad” sticker on everything that happens. Each day—even each phase of the day–is a consistently mixed bag, and that consistency is reassuring. We as a band are slowly learning to employ our lemons for lemonade purposes. I hope we will only get better at this.

As wished, we get to walk around and explore, have our first sit-down meal since Omaha. The boys lose me in the Eaton Centre when I sneak off  to shop at  H&M. Nick has been through my disappearing act before, and has little tolerance for it.

Rancho Relaxo is a Mexican-themed, stucco-walled, upstairs venue, which is a nice change of pace from black walls and duct tape. Tonight we share the bill with three other bands, and as we’re all waiting for the sound guy to show, all the bands sit around and chat (sort of a rare occurrence). It gets raucous, a real bro-down, and I love it. When the sound guy finally shows, it is worth the wait. He is carrying a flute and has a ponytail with full-on sixties bangs. As he sets up the mics he plays the flute into them. He introduces himself as Spock. I do not ask if this is his birth name.

We do a radio interview with a DJ named Daria, who asks one of my favorite questions ever: “If you were in a cover band, what would it be?” Quelle coincidence. I AM in a kick-ass cover band, the Shee Bee Gees. Nick says he would cover Thin Lizzy if he could actually shred on guitar. In fact, sometimes we feel like being in a band is futile because Thin Lizzy already existed. Brian Downey’s drumming is so insane it makes me want to set the sticks down for good.

The bill this night absolutely kills. The first band, Terror Lake, is just awesome, like the children of Dinosaur Junior and Sleater Kinney. Bad Flirt is terrific, really infectious and fun. Even though we go on insanely late, 1:30 AM, our set gets the most enthusiastic audience yet, and so we pull out some songs we never play. They’re pretty dang rough, but no one seems to mind terribly. I beg Spock, whom I totally adore by this point, for a picture together.

We set the alarm for four hours of sleep, because Nick wants to catch the US / Italy soccer game en route. It’s standard sleep duration at this point, so we think little of it. In fact, we stay up an extra hour talking.

Canada: It Kills

June 17th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Thursday June 15–Hamilton, Ontario

We wake after four hours of sleep, faced with an eight-hour drive and the unpredictable task of crossing the Canadian Border for our show in Hamilton, Ontario.

Over the border, we note how much less sinister it seems here. Like if we totally went crazy–drove off the road and ran naked through the streets spray painting cop cars and harrassing kittens—the locals would feed us a hot meal and call our parents, rather than stealing our gear or beating us up.

My jeans are falling off from the lack of eating. A government road sign advises, “Fatigue Kills. Take a break.” Its frankness is impressive; in America, someone might try to sue, saying the sign upset her children. We heed the warning and pull off. Nick says, “I sure wish there was a different kind of fast food here.” Bingo! There’s a sign for a place called Tim Hortons. Inside, the counter people are ridiculously nice and the food is a huge step up. The coffee is perfect and they serve our sandwiches on real plates. I love Tim Hortons! I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and buy some more of their goods! Right now, as I write, I wish I were swimming in a pool of Tim Hortons coffee, floating lazily on a giant glazed donut innertube.

In the parking lot, a kind farmer–a total roadside anachronism–points out that we’re awfully far from home. For the next fifteen minutes, he explains the dire straits of the bean farming economy, and shows us pictures of his dog, who he claims can actually count and sometimes multiply fingers held aloft. (The dog barks the correct answer.) The dog also, judging by the pics, loves riding shotgun on farm equipment.

More road signs keep popping up. A first version in English and about a mile later, the same thing in French. Drunk Driving Kills. Tailgating Kills. It’s a wonder anyone musters the courage to get behind the wheel.

Mike took a Greyhound us to Hamilton, due to some coordination issues, and arrives at the club shellshocked by the experience. Two buses in a row broke down, and a prostitute named Lisa, a woman with a tiny pink dress, cat-eye makeup, and a nasty rash, befriended him. She was the most normal person on the bus.

Mike recounting this story reminds Nick of his own stint selling sex ads at Portland’s local newsweekly. Few things are more incongruous than imagining Nick, Mr. Deadpan, regularly collecting cash from Ladies of the Night. He’d field complaints (for example, that the font on the ad for “Sensual Massage” looks like “Lensual Massage”) relentless bullying for discounts, and occasionally, threats from pimps.

Our t-shirts and 7-inches that we shipped here never arrive, all but killing our gonzo merch campaign. We meet this cool band called Yip Yip, who come out wearing checkered jumpsuits inclduing face masks and goggles, so that no skin at all shows, and play keyboards and toy saxophones. They’re sort of terrifying,

We decide to buy a hotel so we can sleep in. Yes, tomorrow, we will sleep. And explore. And eat. Oh yeah, and play a concert.

Bad Math

June 16th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Wednesday June 14–Chicago

Having grown up in Nebraska, where the whole world is a far drive, we think we’re driving badasses, so we’ve scheduled this tour with some sizable day to day distances. St. Paul to Chicago seems manageable, about 7 hours, but then again, we never get to bed before two AM, and I have a bladder the size of a hamster’s. We’re learning the hard way to add about 30% to the drive time. Every day, we think we’ll get in early enough for a shower and to unload our luggage before load-in, but it never happens. For this same reason, we also rarely have time to eat.

If we were laughing most of the time in the car before Mike arrived, we’re now laughing all of the time.

The Chicago drive grinds to a halt just outside the city, after seven or eight hours in the car already. After two hours in hideous traffic, in which our shower, our meal, our unpacking, our nap, our record shopping, all evaporate with each passing minute, we finally reach the club.

Schuba’s is an extremely nice club, and has a photo booth, which is a terrific idea. They also give meal tickets, which would be great if we had time to eat. The sound is the best we’ve experienced all tour, and we feel a bit naked because of it, like hearing your voice on an answering machine. Do we really sound like that?

We open for Bottomless Pit, which my friends from Seattle–Andy and Tim, who now live in Chicago–are in. I also get to see Tim’s wife Vick, whom I adore. I am stunned when Andy tells me it’s been almost five years since I’ve seen them; they are all so vivid in my memory. But then memory is a blunt instrument; this fact is driven home the second they start playing, when I am shocked—just as I was every time I saw Silkworm play—at how good they are. Their set is devastating and beautiful. I don’t know how to do the experience justice, so I’m going to stop.

Number of meals each: one.

Road Head

June 15th, 2006

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Tuesday June 13–St. Paul

It takes us forever to get out of town, predictably. I realize I’ve lost my sweatshirt and my jeans, two essential items. My brother Mike is leaving to move to San Francisco this morning, in order to do a film internship, so farewells abound. My dad helps us strap the luggage carrier to the roof of the car, loans us some sleeping bags.

Outside of Avoca, Iowa, a car with Nevada plates keeps weaving over the lines. As I pass him, Nick tells me the driver looks really out of it, with his mouth hanging open and head lolling back. I want to urge him to pull over for a nap. Until, in the rearview mirror, we see a woman’s head pop up. Road head! After the shock wears off, Nick asks me if I saw the child in the back seat. Hours later, he admits he was joking about that part.

When we pull in St. Paul, home of Nick’s college alma mater and Husker Du, the booker/sound person meets us in the parking lot and says, “Uh, yeah. Tonight’s fucked.” He explains that the bill has been switched last minute, but that he got a local band to open up first, and they’ll bring, like 10 people with them. Turns out the local band has been called an hour earlier, and have valiantly shown up to Save the Night. They rip into a set of high-speed punk, including a rollicking cover of “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” The lead singer introduces one song thusly: “This one is for the babies with the big breasts and the beavers. It’s called ‘Cleavage to Beaver.’” They give 100% and are one of the more entertaining bands I’ve seen in a while. Their ten friends, as promised, sing along and fist pump. Someone out of sight keeps screaming at them, “You’re fat!” On my way to the bar, and older gentleman motions to me. His forearms are full of blurred Navy tattoos. He introduces himself as Rocky and gestures for me to sit on his lap. I keep walking.

Afterwards the singer introduces himself as Leo. He then accuses Mike of calling him “Leah.” “No. Like Leo the Lion” he says.

The farther east we go, the more people ask if we know the Dandy Warhols, which is an interesting gauge of a) their popularity or b) the regional perceptions of the “Portland Scene”

We have a very fun show. The punks yell when I introduce a Zombies cover as a Rob Zombie cover. A man in a cowboy hat, dreadlocks, and a POW MIA tshirt tells us he “really appreciates” our music. He seems like he means it, and Nick and he are locked in a handshake staredown for almost a minute. Nick says, “Thanks. We appreciate that.” Stare. The man says, “Well, you should.”

The third band never shows. We unwind with a local beer, a treasure called Premium, or as Brian the other band’s drummer informs us, “Primo.” Mike realizes he has been gauchely ordering it as “Grain Belt” all night, when that’s actually the subtitle–like requesting King of Beers instead of Bud. A man who says he is from Somalia randomly joins our group of friends. At one point he holds a finger aloft and says, “I know one thing. One thing. We are together now, but we will never see each other again.” Everyone pauses to process that in his or her own way, and then we toast in silence. The first band kindly donates their door money to us. They truly are the heroes of the night.

We can’t find a hotel and our friends Jake and Meghan volunteer their place. When we pull up, it’s an enormous castle of a house. Jake says the elderly packrat landlords bought it from the City for $40,000 in the 70’s, with the promise to fix it up. It seems they’ve reneged on the promise. We stay in the top floor, across the street from the St. Paul Cathedral. I go to sleep grateful that we don’t have enough money or success for a pre-arranged hotel, as hanging out with people, strangers and friends alike, is surprisingly the best part of all of this. Money is insulation, and for now, we’re better off without it. The last thing Jake says before he retires, is “Don’t worry—there are no ghosts.”

We wake up as a handsome, shirtless guy comes in, introduces himself as Justin and says he’s the roommate. He is incredibly friendly, not at all put off by the mounds of luggage and gear in his living room. He tells us St. Paul was a notorious gangster enclave, and this very house was a “safe house”, now haunted by the ghost of Mary the prostitute, a woman who saw too much. On the way out we see the landlord’s son, who is drinking beer in a beater pickup parked in the sizeable driveway. He asks if we’re “rocking out” and I spot another man fully passed out behind the steering wheel. It’s just before ten AM. A street cleaner swerves around our Subaru as we pile in for Chicago, leaving us a dry island on a wet street. We’re off.

She’s my Cherry Pie

June 14th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Monday June 12–Omaha

Yesterday, a day off, we lay around our mom’s house. I took an hour long bath, shaved my legs, exfoliated. Did laundry, which gave me a great deal of pleasure, since I am a self-professed laundry pervert; it thrills me, really.

The boys are apoplectic about the US Soccer Team’s performance—they’re nearly hoarse from howling at the television.

Mom cooks us a beautifully simple dinner on the grill: barbequed chicken, asparagus, zucchini, and fruit salad. The fruits and vegetables are heavenly after all the crappy road food. I take a nap to catch up on sleep. My pre-show nerves seem to be getting better daily, helped by the natural relaxation Omaha exudes.

We have a new member of the crew, our friend Mike, who will be selling merch and breaking kneecaps. He is like a member of the family, blends right in, and I am happy that I’ll be able to get a lot of reading done while he talks to Nick in the car. I’m not much for talking on drives, but recognize my shotgun seat duty enough to keep up my end of the bargain.

The show at the Goofy Foot is a total blast. A member of the first band, a woman named Dana, had emailed me a week ago—we went to high school together—to let me know it would be a reunion of sorts. From the distance of Portland, her being in the opening band seemed uncanny, but in Omaha, it’s no surprise. There’s so much interconnection. At the show, I am introduced to Mike Loftus, a neighborhood kid who I have heard about for years but only met once. “Mike,” I say. “I met you at a birthday party when we were eight. I was in awe of your dancing skills.” His eyes get big. “We were eight? So, uh, what have you been up to since then?” I laugh. “Oh, not much.” Mike and Dana’s band, The Third Men, are great and right as I run to the bathroom, I hear them break into “Jet,” a song I love but never thought I would live to see performed live. They kill it (in a good way).

The next band, The Family Radio, epitomizes why I love Omaha. It’s this indescribable trio with folky/jazzy/poppy songs, and a congenial warmth. You feel as if you could watch them play all night long. I feel guilty that they have to stop on account of us.

Our show goes really well, with the most enthusiastic audience we’ve had, people laughing at our dumb jokes for once. I find my mom in the sea of faces, and she’s beaming as if we’ve won the Nobel Prize. Afterwards, I don’t want to leave; I wish the bar would stay open all night, but then I remember there’s cherry pie waiting at Mom’s. The energy is totally manic back at the house, Mike Arnold pumped about his first tour, Mike Larimer anxious about his road trip to San Francisco in the morning, Nick drunk and throwing our merch money around, screaming, “I’m rich, BEAATCH!! Mom laughing at her house full of crazy people.

I’d stay here another week, easy, just doing laundry and eating cherry pie.

No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn

June 11th, 2006

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Sunday, June 11–Western Nebraska

I open my eyes and it’s light out. Check the clock, 5:30. On cue, the cop cruises by, pauses, and for some reason keeps going. We’re pulling out right as he circles back around. Communion missed.

We have eight hours of driving to do. We’ve driven ten hours each of the last two days. We have just slept under two hours. This is going to be very painful.

I love early morning, and despite the botched plans, I am grateful to be up at 5:30, to watch the sun rising. Fingers of fog stretch along the plains, enveloping cows, and the light is pink on our faces.

As soon as we cross into Nebraska, I am happy in a special way I am only happy here. The cottonwoods make my heart swell.

We switch driving every ninety minutes, because that is the longest one of us can safely drive in our current state. During the switch-off, the new driver does jumping jacks before taking the wheel.

Finally, the State Capitol juts above the horizon. It is a thick tower with a golden dome, atop which a statue called The Sower tosses seeds from a basket; hence its nickname, The Penis of the Plains. Seeing it means we are almost home—home in the homeland sense at least.

We suspect we that we smell quite bad but that our ability to smell ourselves is impaired by our proximity. This idea seems scarily large–resonant and deep–a nightmare metaphor for our mission out here, on the road.

The Long and Winding Road

June 11th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Saturday, June 10–Denver

We go to Bella’s, which is, in fact, a “Gentlemen’s” club that also serves espresso. It seems likely that, at some point during the day, one can see naked women and drink espresso at the same time, as the latte, priced at $4, obviously includes some sort of vice tax. A memorabilia case shows that Bella’s was, in fact, a full-on whorehouse in recent history, but they seem to have dialed it back a bit. Now, they have loose tea and flavored coffee syrups and joke books for sale.

The drive is surreal, very Wild West. Over the Great Salt Lake, a haze of salt evaporation hovers in a band across the horizon. We cross the continental divide at 4:30. I don’t know what it means, but it seems worth noting.

All day, we can’t believe how slow the miles are passing, and fret about being late. Finally, I call the Hi-Dive to say we’re tardy. The sad thing is that in this sort of band situation, calling to say you’re late is much lamer than actually being late. Once there, the person with whom I make initial contact is jovial and watching South Park on a giant screen. He tells me over the high volume that we’ll be playing with a band called Lion Thighs. Across the street we get a slice of pizza and three girls in outfits constructed solely of duct tape walk in. I hear them tell an employee that it’s too bad he’ll miss “the show.” Could this be Lion Thighs in the flesh? Just before we go on, I notice “Lion Size” written on a bass drum by the stage. And they’re three guys, sans duct tape.

The show itself is really fun. We’re more confident than in San Francisco—or at least I am, and people seem to like our band. Lion Size rocks hard, the bass player doing Van Halen leaps, and then another band takes the stage, playing Lion Size’s already set up instruments. They too rock, and the person standing next to me says, “This is Bananas.” Bananas, I think, what a brilliant name; I’m mad I didn’t think of it myself. Then they introduce themselves as Cowboy Curse and I understand that the “bananas” was misinterpreted. Everyone at the club is friendly and fun, and we leave feeling once again lucky to have had such a warm reception. We hope to return to the Hi-Dive soon.

Afterwards, it’s late, but driving a ways seems like a good idea, to get a head start on Omaha and to avoid the expense of a downtown hotel room. We are both exhausted and talking insistently about nothing, in order to stay awake. We don’t even notice the gas tank is low until it’s almost empty. At the gas station, it’s 2:00 AM and the only other patrons are a van full of black haired, black tshirt boys. . .wait. . .a band. I go inside to buy a snack and two of them are chatting up the clerk. Clutching my “burnt” peanuts (the carcinogenic red candied kind) I eavesdrop as they tell her how they’re playing Omaha tomorrow night. I raise my eyebrows. One of them nods in my direction and tells the clerk, “She hates us.” “Me?” I say, stunned. Then I tell them we’re playing Omaha too. They get all excited about the coincidence and ask our band’s name. For once, they get it first thing (yes i know we made our bed), repeating the name perfectly. Jack tells me his band’s name is “Baysuh.” It sounds like a fancy multisyllabic way of pronouncing “bass” and I think, hmm they don’t look like a funk band. I ask him to repeat himself and he says, more clearly,“Bayside.” I appear to be experiencing auditory hallucinations. We chat some more and they accompany me to the car to meet Nick, like goodwill ambassadors from the professional rock van. We wave goodbye loopily.

The next hotel possibility is much farther than we thought. We finally pull into Ft Morgan at 3:30 AM, and guess who’s right behind us, the only other car on the highway? Bayside! We are cracking up and so are they. We beat them to Days Inn, which has no rooms. Then we go to Super 8: no rooms. Each place, they pull in behind and we gesture: don’t bother. We spot the Best Western: no rooms again. Now, we’re driving erratically, in panicked circles. At some point we lose Bayside and I’m kind of sad. The fact that they are in the identical ridiculous, ill-conceived situation, makes me feel close to them, bonded. It’s one of my favorite things about being in a band—there’s a whole small world of people, playing similar clubs, meeting similar people, eating the same bad food, sharing the same travails. Obviously, Bayside is a different sort of band, on a different scale, but they’re just as screwed as we are right now. We decide pressing on toward the next town is inconceivable; we’re just too exhausted, so we end up parking in front of the city park. We cram the seats back a few inches and try to sleep for a bit, so that we can drive to Omaha. I am sure we will be awakened soon by a cop knocking on the window, and I’m actually kind of looking forward to it, sharing our desperation with a stranger. I am sure I can make him pity us, even root for us. He will be a hard-ass at first, which will only make the eventual conversion all the more satisfying. The cruiser light will flash silently as he escorts us to the one secret remaining hotel room in town. Imagining it, my eyes flutter close.

Wild Wild West

June 11th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Friday, June 9 (part 2)–Nevada

A couple of hours outside of San Francisco, I make a bunch of phone calls and keep telling everyone, “Nevada, I’m in Nevada!!” in the same incredulous inflection people use when they utter the word “Nebraska,” my home state. Just another example of what pop psychologists call the cycle of abuse. Who do Nevadans deride?

Three hours later, we see a sign that says, “Welcome To Nevada,” marking (obviously) the actual beginning of the state. I’m disappointed and a little embarrassed, but I’m used to being wrong. I just make things up sometimes, convinced of their truth. At Yoshi’s house, I was recounting how Nick was at Candlestick Park during the World Series earthquake. Nick walks in to inform me I’m completely wrong. I had been so sure. . .

More bad food—this time we try Subway and regret it. I am a Subway virgin, and wonder aloud how “Jared” pulled off his diet. Nick tells me this particular Subway is sub-par, even for Subway.

Later, we pull off to get a beverage at a single building in the middle of nowhere, designated as “Gas Station/Mini Mart/Bar/US Post Office.” Suddenly, the driveway pavement gives way to a minefield of foot-deep potholes. But the only vehicles in the lot are mud-splattered monster trucks, so the holes must be an entry initiation. Above the entrance to the “bar” section of the building, a sign warns, “You must be 21 to enter. You must act 21 to stay.” The unmistakable riff of Fortunate Son ushers a stumbling man into the vague delineation between bar and mini mart. He holds a fist aloft and slurs, “I dedicate this fuckin song to every fuckin kid in Nevada!”

This snaps me out of my slow, baffled progression through the store. I scurry for the counter with a canned Starbucks “double shot,” and the clerk tells me how much she loves them. We bond over our shared taste in drinks. The moment is a comfort, as the vibe is pretty dicey in the bar, and the action keeps spilling over to where we are. Shit will definitely be started at some point this evening—maybe every evening–but we’ll be long gone by then.

In the car, Nick wonders aloud if Starbucks ever thought in their wildest dreams that a woman at a roadhouse in desolate Nevada would be endorsing their pre-packaged drinks.

A while down the road we get delirious with giggles, and Nick tells me in all sincerity that he now understands the term “natural high” because he feels really stoned, except that he has a secondary, more sober consciousness that is fully aware he’s laughing at stupid shit, but is nonetheless powerless to stop it. The Doves song “Black and White Town” comes on, and in that stoner way we just go nuts, philosophizing. Nick asserts that it is the sonic embodiment of an Industrial UK town (Nick lived in a “Ned” neighborhood in Glasgow for a while). The high hats are unrelenting for the whole song, like a locomotive crashing through the neighborhood. If you haven’t heard it, you should go listen.

We give up in Wells, NV because the bug guts are so thick that oncoming headlights are turned into pulsing slashes, something straight out of Star Trek. We find a hotel and head towards a café that the desk person recommends. By recommend, I mean she vouches that it would be open. I relay to Nick that it’s called, er, “The Three-Way.”

On the way there, we pass a place called Bella’s Espresso, whose entire building is outlined in pink neon and glowing hearts. That is a whorehouse, I say. But it says espresso, Nick says. Then he looks again and says, Wait, that does look like a whorehouse.

We find the café—which is actually called The Four-Way (dang!) and is not only a café, it’s a Casino/Truck Stop/Café. These Nevadans are such multi-taskers. Inside, the crowd is completely apeshit. Everyone is drunk and spilling out of their booths, calling to other patrons, staggering around the aisles. Yet incongruously, they’re eating eggs and hashbrowns in full fluorescent light. It’s totally bizarre. I had planned to order a beer, but change my mind; it seems best to keep my faculties fully intact.

After dinner, we use some merch money to play the slots. Total losses: $2.

Then we collapse.

Suggested Nevada State Mottos: 1) We’re rowdy! 2) We heart potholes.

Daily stats:
Times Nick caught Heather looking at her biceps: 16
[Ed. Note—gross exaggeration!]

San Francisco’s Siren Song

June 10th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Friday, June 9–San Francisco

We just left San Francisco, which was, all things considered, a coup.

In times like this, I realize I have a birth defect called “high strung personality” and that this quality is in painful and direct opposition to the necessary attitude for tour. To wit: An interviewer calls this morning (before I’ve ingested any caffeine), and right as I answer I hit the speakerphone button. I can’t figure out where to talk into and I completely spazz, turning the phone over and over. I yell in the general direction of the phone asking him to call back in two minutes. Then I spend those two minutes hitting every button on the phone and pleading to Nick (er, yelling) “fix it!!!”. He reminds me that it’s not the end of the world if I have to talk on speakerphone. It’s not? Are you sure?

Anyway, this is my way of introducing the hour and a half spent lost in San Francisco yesterday afternoon. We had hoped for a spot of tea, or a stiff drink, or a nap, but instead we drove around, lost in Golden Gate Park, lost at the top of a terrifying hill, lost in a cul de sac packed with fit singles, as I stared at the map frantically hoping I could conjure the missing streets—the ones that we were driving on but were nowhere on the map. We made it of course, but not before I had declared the tour ruined several times, reflecting on how if only I hadn’t bombed Cell Biology I might have been a doctor golfing in some grassy knoll, rather than driving around lost with the very person whose birth I once believed was a cruel joke inflicted on me. (Hey—I was a kid.) Aww, what am I talking about. Rock rocks.

Anyway, San Francisco was a blast. Our host, Yoshi, was fantastic. The club, The Rickshaw Stop, was one of the nicer clubs I’ve ever been to, let alone played. The sound was excellent and the staff, especially Waldo, who did the sound, were remarkably nice. Our friends came out and hung like troupers. As we are driving out of town, the light is perfect and it’s the most beautiful place in the world. Nick says, I could live here. I completely see what he means. If he does move, I’ll have to follow. Perhaps it’s a fleeting thought; we’ve been seduced by perfect light and it will wear off quickly. Either way, we’ll be in Portland for a while.

Nick Can’t Drive 55

June 10th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Thursday, June 8–Oregon

On the way out of town we see a giant Caveman statue and we exchange looks. Nick promptly heads right for it, intuitively, as if we’ve been on Caveman quest all along. At the base of the Caveman, a plaque explains that Grants Pass is famous for a “booster group” from the 1920s called—get this–the Cavemen. They gave themselves names like Big Bone and Fluffy Pelt, wore animal skins, and claimed to be direct descendants from Neanderthals. Supposedly, their activities included appearing at a Broadway show (wha?!?!?), which seems very 2006, Broadway-aesthetic wise. This season, they could open for Menopause: the Musical.

We stop to get an espresso in Yreka, California. It’s a a drive-thru, which sounds fast, but will actually the single slowest coffee experience I’ve ever had, partly because the woman working there is going crazy from being locked up in a box all day. Maybe it is our fault; we walked up to the window. While she’s making our coffee, a man drives up to the window and wants to know the maximum number of espresso shots that could be fit into a coffee drink. She guesses she could cram five into a 20 ounce cup. He then wants to know the most “exciting” drink she could make him with him with these five shots. She keeps describing different drinks and he says “nope, not exciting enough.” This is all while she’s supposed to be making my coffee. Right as she flips the blender on to make his “Crazy Caramel MindFreezer” she informs me, apropos of nothing, that she didn’t care that Kurt Cobain died. Then as if in consolation, she concedes that she really loves tiramisu.

For lunch we eat at Burger King. I can’t believe it, but I don’t want to waste time looking for something else. On the Today Show recently, Eric Schlosser said that McDonalds is one of the largest toy retailers in the country. I happen to find kid’s meals perfectly-sized (for me), so now, after two of them in two days, I own a disturbingly “hot” troll-teenager doll and this Bratz thing—a perfume bottle?–that looks like a buttplug.

So, here’s a debate for you. Are fast food places really grosser at gas stations? We keep snubbing the truck stop McDonald’s, as if they’re somehow inferior, like the fries will be cooked in diesel fuel. They’re probably the same, but we just can’t do it.

Nick is wearing an outfit that looks like Larry David. Sorry, that is not grammatically correct. The outfit looks like that of Larry David. Grey slacks and a polo shirt and white tennis shoes. I wish we were driving a Prius—then we could get into a “situation.”

Grand Funk Railroad keeps popping up in the ipod mix. Do you think they really got laid in Omaha? “four chiquitas in Omaha. . .we tore the hotel down.” I’d be pissed if I were those chiquitas and heard about it on the radio. Makes a bathroom wall look discreet, you know?

Fights:
One. Brief. I was working on an article and failed to acknowledge Nick’s celebratory honk as we entered the state of California.

Driving division of labor: Nick 10 hours Heather: 3

Place names that could be euphemisms for sex acts:
1) Balls Ferry
2) Junction City

And…liftoff

June 10th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Wed. June 7th–Heading South

Early in the drive we pass the 45th parallel, the halfway point between the North Pole and the Equator. Perhaps that explains the Oregonian penchant for equanimity. A couple of hours later we pass a yellowed billboard that screams “Big Mac Attack!” and Nick points out that the slogan hasn’t been in use in twenty years. Perhaps someone left it there that long?

Anyhow, it is an omen, as our first meal is, a bit later, at McDonald’s. I have a feeling I’ll be eating a lot of McDonald’s. After a late night trip to Taco Bell last week, I have exceeded my yearly fast food quota already, with only two visits.

We decide to stop for the night in Grant’s Pass. The name is kind of romantic, as if we’re crossing over a momentous threshold. The first hotel we try, I am in a line behind an amorous teenage couple. They paw each other as they are making the transaction. At first I think they are just dying to have sex but then their friend, a bounding, punky girl, barges in and says, in a very loud kid-whisper, “Get Room 205; we’re all over there.” I immediately walk out and suggest another hotel. The Travelodge is more amenable but the woman who checks us in is clearly in training and the owner is growing frustrated with her. The trainee keeps complaining—as if to explain her difficulty with credit card machine, finding the keys, and the retractable pen– that her glasses are too smudged to see through. This seems strange, because in the time it takes to utter the complaint, it could be fixed. Sort of like saying, “My finger’s in a light socket and it really hurts.” Pull it out, you know? The room mildly smells of fish and urine and we watch a VH1 documentary on heavy metal which details Iron Maiden’s evolution. Bruce Dickinson, who seems oddly like a Christopher Guest character—in a good way—is explaining how he developed these enormous gestures to give the people in back of the arena a sense of proximity. So I’ll be working on that. I’ll let you know what I come up with, once I find a spare appendage. Perhaps my hair can do the talking. Also, Iron Maiden employed a fail safe trick: a mascot, this skull thing. It has a name. Like Curly or something.

California dreamin…

June 7th, 2006

Posted in tha road by heather |

Wednesday June 7–At Home

Packing always makes me hysterical. I’m trying not to get hysterical, but I can feel it bubbling up. Nick is trying to calm me down with Dwight Twilley Band. I wish we could bring Smolli the Beagle on tour, but there’s nowhere for her to sit. And she doesn’t really like our music that much. She whispered it in my ear.

The most important item to pack? Emergen-c. It’s like one of those snake oil cure-alls, only it really works.

I’m getting very excited to see all of you. We will be posting photos and anecdotes and perhaps some food descriptions, in homage to the famous Unwound food tour diary. I ate a lot of good food yesterday to store up.

Our record came out yesterday, and I hope that you will check it out. It’s got a lovely interior booklet (designed by Nick) lyrics, etc. And some songs that we wrote.

Next Stop: CALIFORNIA. Time for some Mamas and Papas.

Buckle up camper.

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