We stayed in a house that predates indoor plumbing. There was no bathroom on the first floor. There was a toilet in the scullery. Murphy's Kids dressed as The Avengers, Thor pounding on the drums with his hammer, Iron Man on bass, full moon powered up on his chest. I ran into Reid before the set, green face paint, green spandex shirt with musculature outlined in black. I asked him which Ninja Turtle he was. He said Donatello. At 6'10" he is a natural Hulk.
Phil and Thomas from Proverbial appeared just in time for the set, smooth as ever, with perfect timing. Late night jams with the acoustic guitar, kazoo, and eight part harmony went unrecorded, and thus are documented solely in the annals of rock legend.
I’m not afraid. I’m back at work. I go to the bars at night. I don’t take it personally. I just think it’s terrible. It used to be survival of the fittest. Now it’s survival of the luckiest. I saw an old man with his face completely wrapped in bandages walking his dog. He’s not afraid. Everywhere you look there’s a guy with a black bag or using a cell phone. I’m not afraid of that.
There’s this hill in Brighton where you can catch air from either direction but there’s an intersection at the top. I’m going pretty fast and the light is green, and I see some kid in a Honda about to catch some air. He sees me too, which is why he turns the wheel at the last second and drives the right corner fender into the torso of the driver behind me. The guy is done, eyes wide, trying to talk without any lungs. And the driver of the other car turned out to be his friend. It was sad. I’m not giving up driving because one chach bag almost killed me and another might get me later. I’m not afraid.
Ocean Springs Mississippi
You know it's a good show when the singer tells the crowd to throw their money on the stage and they do, when the bartender picks up a guitar and shreds the psychedelic mustaches off legendary 60s tunes, and the whole staff and audience pick up their belongings and move the party to the after hours spot.
Mezo's stays open all night serving bottled beer in brown paper bags. It's an old southern speakeasy with decoy front doors, ostentatious sitting rooms, and stairwells winding upwards toward even more secret mysterious dens of vice. We stayed in the backyard where the performance space has been sanctified by local artists and the trees are flying buttresses of rope lights.
Margot told us the horizon is defined by its distance, which makes it both unattainable and undesirable by virtue of its distance being a necessary corollary of its existence. We define our horizons as much as they define us. So don't expect fulfillment from any specific goal, because the horizon will have moved as much as you have. Just enjoy the trip.
The tornado that ripped down the storefronts of Tuscaloosa has not damaged the spirit of the town. This is a place where things get smashed, pulverized, and stitched back together with visible scars and courage intact. Roll tide.
Mickey, Gaddy, and Gary rumbled into Green Bar after ruining a perfectly good karaoke version of that Hoobastank song that was popular some time ago and being asked to leave or at least wait their turn to sing. They have started up a promotion company called Kno Mei, after the Sun Tzu axiom about to know one's enemy is to know oneself. They also hit each other a lot. It's a sign of affection among certain tribes.
We learned to play Three Man, which involves rolling dice and not being the three man if someone else rolls a three. We heard the story of a lost virginity and an uncle with a shotgun. We found out that down in the swamp they hunt gators like we hunt deer. We learned that punching a hole in the ceiling is like apologizing for spitting on the couch. And we found out the tarpon rodeo does not involve riding giant fish.
Most of the day was spent in preparation for the rapture, or rather for the horror show that life on Earth was sure to become for those of us left behind. Even so, the flash mob rioting around the gas station on the edge of town set our nerves on edge. People screamed, groaned, laughed, and wept crumpled on the sidewalk in glittering sequined dresses. They crowded the register demanding cigarettes and lottery tickets.
We had just rained down brimstone on the 321 Local, an unassuming gem of a venue with a headbanging sound system and a tightly knit family of employees, friends, and bandmates who come out to every show, every night, unless, of course, it's the rapture. It was our idea to stop by the gas station on the edge of town for late night snacks, but they jumped in with both feet, ducking the hopeless and homeless and sheriff's deputies with practiced ease.
Then they took us back to their campfire, burning outside an old plantation house further out of town. It was like Forrest Gump's house in Mad Max's world. The whole crew of bartenders, band members, and punk rock fashionistas were gathered, wisecracking, trading war stories, checking the perimeter for zombies. Then Ryan lit his arm on fire with the gasoline.
For the final launch of space shuttle Endeavor, the sleepy bayside town of Titusville was overrun by a swarm of amateur photographers, science club adherents, rocketry enthusiasts, and people driven by a sense that it must be important, this penultimate space launch, this next to last mission of exploration before the military takes over once and for all. Endeavor did indeed perform four DOD experiments (simplex, rambo-2, maui, and seiti) during her last flight, but they all were overshadowed by the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer 2. AMS2 can detect dark matter, which theoretically holds the universe together, anti-matter, a necessary byproduct of the theoretical Big Bang, and strangelets, wherein strange quarks in place of the usual up and down quarks result in superheavy isotopes of known elements.
We drove across Florida in the dead of night, stopping in Orlando for overpriced gasoline at 4:30 AM. As the ghostly grey of dawn accrued on the trees and tangle of the swamps that surround Cape Canaveral and Titusville, we became ensared in heavy traffic on the narrow secondary roads leading to the world's most famous spaceport. The nerds had beaten us. A local in a very unofficial looking hat offered to let us park in the CVS parking lot for $20. We decided to park at a distance and hike to the water.
There is no sound at first, just a flash and a plume of white exhaust expanding outward in all directions. Then the massive orbiter, a white dot on the orange dot of the external fuel tank, is lifted upon a pillar of fire atop a pillar of cloud rising thick and fast toward the lumpy egg crate mattress of cloud cover. Then the noise washes over you, building as waves of energy from different altitudes reach your ears simultaneously,and just when you think your eardrums will burst, it's over. The flight commander, Captain Mark Kelly, says "Call acknowledged" to mission control on the local AM station, and you know they made it.
The road does not, in fact, go on forever. It dead ends in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, 90 miles from Cuba, on an island known to the tourists as Key West. This remote fishing town slash naval base might, as the legends say, rest on a vortex of mysterious energy that brings out the glorious chaos in everyday life, like Sedona or Mesa Verde, or it might just be a seafaring outpost on the edge of the world where crazy things happen sometimes.
To get there you cross the Overseas Highway, a hundred mile bridge connecting the mainland to Key Largo to an arc of barrier islands including Bahia Honda, a state park with white sand beaches and snorkling with pufferfish, stingrays, elkhorn and star coral, to Big Pine Key, with the blue hole and it's freshwater lens, to the iguanas at least seven feet in length on Sugarloaf Key.
You finally arrive and Duval street is a wild mockery of Bourbon street, no holds barred burlesque shows, drag shows, strip shows, and cover bands around every corner, $10 all you can drink liquor in every bar. Some fat local fisherman in a costume walks to the center of the street and blows a conch shell, calling the drunken masses to him like the pied piper. We knew it was not going to end well. We survived.
The campus of Florida Southern College is a temple of education designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Envisioned as a series of esplanades slicing through orange groves and joining together at inspiring summits of logical housing, inviting learning forums, and uplifting religious fellowship (FSC is Methodist to this day,) it is quite possibly the best untapped skateboarding video terrain in the world. On the day we rode bikes through it, the largest water dome in the world was turned off to save water.
Once again we melted faces at Evolution Records, a last remaining stronghold of retail vinyl where Robert puts on shows and sells concessions just to survive. Goodnight Neverland wore these spooky feather and bone totems in their hair and sang about loneliness in harmony, and Ratham Stone rocked out in a radio friendly way.
Then late night we climbed up through the trapdoor onto the unfinished balcony stage above the concession stand and sculpted some blues and soul jams with a piano, drums and tremelo electric guitar, and Robert told us the story of the flood after the great No Name Storm, when he went door to door in a rowboat evacuating the folks who lived at lower elevation.
The Fat Elvis, Ms. Pack's original peanut-buttery bacon and banana champion of the International Biscuit Festival, met fierce competition this year in Ms. Hardin's bacon lettuce and fried green tomato biscuit, and ultimately capitulated to Ms. Randall's sweet potato casserole biscuit. Why is Knoxville the biscuit capital of the world? Doesn't matter. Just make sure you wake up early and get there before all the biscuits are gone.
Knoxivi, the internet broadcasting company where Jess works, hosts local and touring rock bands in their studio at eleven o'clock every morning, streams them live to the web, and hosts previous episodes for your viewing pleasure at a later date. The above statement is so amazing that I recommend you consider the urgent need for this sort of grassroots entertainment option in your own community, or if you already have it, I recommend you click the email link at left and tell us about it in detail. Please?
So we got to be on internet TV, and then we got to play at Preservation Pub late enough that the epic Black Lillies show going on at the Bijou Theatre was already done. Our hometown people came straight from that show to the pub, and brought the spillover crowd with them, because Knoxville either can't stop or won't stop the biscuit fueled rock.
In the hop garden behind the warehouse at the Terrapin Brewery, a disused loading dock has been converted into a stage to host live music during brewery tours and tastings. Beer snobs, epicureans, and regular townsfolk que up for the latest concoction, one a Tupelo Honey flavored 11% ABV wheat beer called Gamma Ray, and experience the legendary wealth of the Athens music scene while their dogs retrieve frisbees across the four acre lawn. Our plan was to draw people who had been drinking all afternoon at the tasting to the 10PM show at the downtown venue.
Max Eve opened for us at the Rye Bar, which is down some treacherously steep stairs from Clayton Street. He's a one man Trans Siberian Orchestra, conducting an ephemeral continuum of looping guitar tracks, percussive slapping, power chords, picking patterns, self-harmonizing metallic walk ups, and glassy wobbling slide downs all glimmering on the edge of existence. Of course, it's impossible to stay perfectly in time, even when playing to fresh samples of his own design, hence the need to cycle old loops out and introduce new ones.
We ate exquisite Georgia style pig with Mild Elrod's sauce at Jot Em Down BBQ, and we forgave their simplified view of North Carolina style, because everyone thinks their own personal recipe is the best, after all. And we found out that you can't really get My Chemical Romance unless you print out the lyrics and read along while listening to the album. I still haven't tried it.
The Baltimore Murder Map shows where not to go in the city if you wish to avoid being murdered. It's roughly half full at this point, with January through May murders lighting up east and west Baltimore, leaving a wedge of southern Baltimore extending toward the District of Columbia and a block to the north. These polar havens are connected by a single ribbon of asphault called the Jones Falls Expressway.
Dr. Slothclaw from Red Lion, Pennsylvania followed us with their brand of explosive funk storytelling, which included a haunting cover of The Muffin Man by Frank Zappa. Fish Head Cantina is a dream venue. It looks like it was designed by a touring musician. Unfortunately, it's a peninsula jutting out into the Baltimore murder map, which means you must be this brave to enter.
We stayed up all night with Mike Merod, who just graduated from law school. He's still got the screws in his foot from the lakehouse party. He told us passing the bar is a lot harder than building a bar in your garage, and a lot less fun. Confuscius say, "Wisdom that comes with age is bitterest."
New York is being overrun by time travelers. I'm pretty sure the band that played after us was an actual New Wave band on tour from the 1980s. There is a ban on smoking in public parks, but the time travelers are the only people who can afford cigarettes anyway.
We took the Williamsburg Bridge over to Brooklyn with Charlie, a New Zealand wine maker from the future, to Erin's party in a new building that's in default and under construction. We met the new neighbor who moved out the next day.
Seth from the 1920s showed up on his bicycle with Absinthe and licorice gum. The soundtrack was Birdie Nam Nam, a quartet of French DJs who come from a time when the turntable is a recognized musical instrument. For breakfast they eat pancakes with peanut butter. When is that from?
The legendary J.C. Dobbs has autographed photos on the walls of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Dandy Warhols and other bands that played there. Golden Phi caused a freak cloudburst with their blues metal that delayed the Phillies game for two hours.
Bong Hits For Jesus was in the building, and we got to meet The Great SOCIO, who took us back to their band house on hallowed ground and taught us to play Shuttle Cup. Think beer pong with badminton shuttlecocks.
We asked where to get a good Philly cheesesteak. Alberto said Pat's. Nick said Gino's. Then they were grappling on the floor, smashing into walls, breaking things. We got sandwiches at Frak's, and ate them at The Grape Room and listened to the woes of a booking manager, which you can read at www.coverbandssuck.com.
Joe has a Monster Vault in the apartment building where he lives with two of his frat brothers. He gave us a hundred condoms to distribute with Monster logos on the wrappers. In honor of Nick's birthday, we took the foosball table outside, and Dave created a ghastly new form of antifreeze called the Godzilla, made from Sake and Monster.
We played Mitchell's, the bar on the other side of Pumper's, where Whitewater has been drinking long enough to have established a wall of suckers where confiscated fake IDs hang like FBI wanted posters in the post office. Erin spilled a drink on Trevor's distortion pedal. It was an accident, but she was in accident prone territory, probably on Four Loco or some other unholy caffeinated alcohol, so we sent her to the other bar where she found the stripper pole.
The next morning we got in the studio at University of Wisconsin Whitewater, where Joe and his roommate Josue are studying sound production and recording. All our gear was at the bar, so we set up any mics we could find, and played turn-the-heat-up jazz rock while the snow buried the high voltage broadcast equipment outside.
Fort Wayne Indiana
We pulled into town just ahead of the storm. Mookie's bar and grill is a huge metal barn with motorcycle parking out front. The old hippies in Fort Wayne like to stand outside in the fast falling snow and smoke and talk about following the Grateful Dead around the country in the days when gas cost twenty five cents, you could fix the Volkswagon yourself, and no sheriff's deputy anywhere recognized the smell of ganja.
We split sets with Elephants In Mud, the dub heavy trio of locals that switch instruments and styles at whim. They played a Tribe Called Quest medley that brought the house down during the third set. Lynn's drums are specifically suited to hip hop. They reminded me of Ross Rosar's set with the hubcap and the five gallon bucket.
John the bass player, keyboardist, and pinch guitarist took us to Chick Fil A because of the reference to that restaurant in our new song "Big Mike." He told us about his other gig playing jazz at upscale martini bars on Fridays and Saturdays, all covers, nobody listening. It's still better than having a day job.
Wilbert's Music is right across the street from the stadium downtown. You would think there would be some foot traffic. No. There were like ten people in the bar all night. We took requests for Tom Petty, Matisyahu, whatever they wanted, but it didn't help. Dejected fans dragged their feet on the way to the parking deck as they left the stadium early.
Game attendance has been way down since King James left. The most recent estimate is $30 million annually in lost revenue. Some of the stragglers wanted to hear Justin Bieber. That was too far. We played Red House instead, and Calvin the security guard came in from the parking lot to tell us that Cleveland would be thanking us if they had heard it. He's a blues man, too.
The next day we visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They let rock bands visit free of charge in exchange for a CD to file in their archives and proof of a recent gig in Cleveland. The pick of destiny is located atop John Paul Jones' 1975 Alembic Series II eight string bass. Also, some of Jerry Garcia's guitars have specially designed toggle switches that control the weather. There is no photography in the museum, or I would show you.
Rochester New York
The Indras were not actually releasing a CD yet, and also were not taking prisoners. Greg, the bass and peruvian twelve string mandolin type instument player, lost his job today. Eric the guitarist gave his two weeks notice at the cultish right wing steel cutting factory where his hours have been cut from fifty to twenty per week and he inhales fine glimmering steel dust every day.
They play the sort of music that describes their experiences, blues rock with lyrics about the Greek pantheon in cyclone form and the exhilaration of outrunning it with feet of fire. The Bug Jar is a fascinating bar with an apartment installed upside down on the ceiling, dirty dishes in the sink, glowing coals in the fireplace, Nixon's Time Magazine on the coffee table.
On a set break we met Abram Boise, author of The Star of Happiness, whose book tour is stalled because of bus trouble. We stayed with Eric and Andrea and met their 16 year old cat Zia who was on the verge of kicking the bucket when they made her an outdoor cat. Her newly discovered love of killing has rekindled her zest for life.
Corey was on a pilgrimage to see the Flight of the Conchords apartment in Chinatown, where we met up with Mcgee and got Vietnamese food. They eat a lot of baguette sandwiches because of the French colonial influence. We took a stroll along Wall Street looking for the bar where the ruined brokers go to strengthen their resolve.
Instead we found an Irish pub across the street from the giant hole where the World Trade Center once stood. Mcgee told us that during the excavation they found an entire ship buried underneath the foundation. How many people knew about that? Why was it there? Whose was it? Does Dan Brown know about this?
The valet at the hotel recommended a limosine as the best method of transporting five people and musical instruments in the most expedient fashion, and naturally we concurred. Otto's Shrunken Head is a disorderly place where the punk rockers go to drink five dollar beers and listen to their friend's new band. Johnny came up from Brooklyn where he forces high school kids to learn math concepts they will need as adults. He said Adam is teaching English in Beijing after his finance job was swallowed in the economic meltdown. Maybe we should tour the PRC. I bet those kids have lots of pent up energy.
New York New York
They now have cell phone chargers in bars, or at least they did at P&G Bar, the storied midtown dive where the Grateful Dead played and which was recently forced to move from the original Amsterdam location to a cozy basement bar on Columbus opposite the Museum of Natural History. Monica and her UK posse dropped in. She had her violin in tow, having come directly from a performance. Next time we're playing The Devil Went Down To Georgia.
We ate that anonymous meal between dinner and breakfast at the neighborhood 24 hour diner with Mary Kate, who is finishing her Medievalist dissertation, which makes her sort of like Ignatius P Riley, except for being charming and funny instead of obnoxious and crazy.
Then we went back to the hotel and looked down on the city from the 27th floor. The buildings were fluorescent and gleaming yet totally deserted. No cleaning crews, no late night brainstorming, only the LED billboards were animated. So we rode the cylindrical glass Jetson pod down the central tower to the stoop and tried to flag down the cash cab.
Hennessey's Hooley House is right across the street from City Hall, which looks like a supermax prison on pylons or a futuristic stronghold designed to keep the angry mobs safely below where they can be easily dispersed with gas or bullets from the arrow loop windows.
We caught up with Ed, who is going to film school here, and who recorded the show with his tiny camera and unipod. We watched his latest short called Opus Pocus about a musician haunted by the memory of a woman, represented by her magical intrusion into the frame around every corner and behind every door.
The punk trio Straight To VHS played a brutal set. The drummer's hand started bleeding during the third song and he kept playing until the guitarist broke his last string. Corey showed up to surprise Ed and us too, even though we sort of knew. We forgot to put him on the guest list, though. Sorry, Corey.
Great town. The cheese steaks at McGuey's are only $2. We stayed with Sean and his cat Falcor and watched Rockers. Now we know why Buck says "hustlin like raindrops." At Fergie's Pub they have this wooden Captain's motto carved above the bar in old German. The translation is roughly, "Drink, die. Don't drink, die anyway. Drink."
We met the kids from Bong Hits For Jesus, who definitely like to rock out, and the hip hop jazz group Abstract Words smoothed it out for us when the gruff Irish barkeep came upstairs and told us to turn it down.
Philadelphia is a surreal city where the street parking is in the turn lane and the modern glass ziggurats loom above the ancient stone mortar halls of our forefathers. It's like listening to Deltron and recognizing Saucerful of Secrets from the Dark Side Rehearsals.
The Whiskey hosted a benefit for First Descents so Owen and Beth can take young adult cancer survivors on a mountaineering expedition across the glacier on Mout Hood. Owen says they're moving away from oxygen tanks and using a drug called Diamox to raise red cell count, though some climbers still carry tanks as a fail safe.
The main disadvantage to oxygen is the variant moisture content of the air. Russia has good air for high altitude respiration. Lately most of the air comes from monsoon drenched India because it's so much cheaper, so climbers drink or breath it on the climb and then take Diamox and function on the dry thin air at the top.
They also have to keep track of how much water they excrete because water retention is one of the symptoms of altitude sickness. The idea is that if you drink 2 liters of water and only eliminate a half liter the rest of that water could be in your lungs or your brain. This means that climbers pee in water bottles and compete for greatest volume.
Carrboro North Carolina
Johnny, Jameson, Big Mike, Stephen, Corey, Derek, Dana, Junior, and a whole lot of other people came out for the new track, an unmastered version of Dub DB that will be on the next record, Stereo Chemistry. We're proud of them for leaving Raleigh, which is heaven, and driving to exit 270 where you can turn right to Durham, which is purgatory, or left to Chapel Hill, which is hell. We're NC State fans, if you didn't know.
They all turned left and showed up at the Cat's Cradle, which is one of the best venues we've ever played. It's like the Lincoln Theatre except the green room is a loft above the stage and there's crazy art everywhere you look. The staff is friendly and Andy the sound guy is damn good. Trevor's new guitar screamed like a mother alien.
The lineup was Fiction 20 Down, Ballyhoo, and Iration, with us at the beginning for 30 minutes. Dave has the flu, so he was alternately sweating and shivering throughout the set. Too many days on the road. We've got a two day break. It's all about orange juice and frequent naps.
Ocean Springs Mississippi
Van Art is a former roadie for Bocephus, who travels the country in a hand painted Econoline van with thousands of signatures on it, raising awareness for male breast cancer. He reminds me of Waldi from the old Farmhouse crew, except instead of having a strict German upbringing, he was a rodeo clown for years until the odds finally caught up with him.
The Government Street Grocery is an understated DIY bar that attracts music fans like a bug zapper. At the end of the night Natalie and Lindsey forced us to play Ophelia and The Wait, and Donny the manager picked up a guitar and rocked Hey Joe with us. Vertiginous chops. We swapped a CD for one of his band, Red Static.
In spite of our recent misadventure, we agreed to take this couple back to their party mansion on the lake. Then we ducked out to Donny's place and watched The Man With The Golden Gun. We were pretty sure Donny was passed out except when we couldn't remember the midget's name. From out of the darkness, barely distinguishable, "Knick Knack?"
I want to start a record label, just to sign Mob Towne Revival and listen to them play freestyle funk jazz hip hop from way down south: horns, keys, congas, harmonicas, everybody raps. The pop punk quartet Only Thieves were super tight, but Mob Towne music is why the bars never close in Mobile.
We picked up some strays on the way to Nailer's house after the show, and one girl passed out in the back of the van. Her friend wanted to call 911. He had us all scared that she was on some weird drugs, until she woke up and started taking shots of Evan Williams with us.
The next morning we woke up and ate kiwi and played basketball with Nailer. The ball kept getting stuck behind the backboard. We ate fried shrimp and gumbo on the way out of town, feeling like cats that couldn't remember how many lives we have left.
Defying all known laws of physics, the Mockingbird Cafe exists in two places at the same time. One is in Havana, a sleepy suburb with cobblestone streets that are deserted by 8PM, and the other, where we played, is about 20 minutes away in Tallahassee proper. When we arrived at the correct location, they were serving dinner with blue grass on stage, which is always a good sign.
Trial By Stone has a new line up complete with brain shattering rhythm section, hypnotic slide trombone, and the inimitable Buck Lemons on lead guitar. They burned the house down, as expected. The night manager Brian Gibby left with our money, but paid TBS, so Buck offered to give us their half and collect from Gibby later. The music business is full of sketch-balls. We just got lucky this time, because someone in town was looking out for us.
We met Mike from Lifeline Media, who asked to buy a CD, was informed that we sold out of CDs a few shows back, and offered to press more CDs for us the next day in his factory. So we made a custom black sleeve mix entitled Distributing 2: A Minor. While the machines did the work, we watched videos of Mike's band WTF playing classic cover songs while dressed as 70s detectives.
Orlando Florida Again
Underground Bluz is a small room with a tremendous heart located across the street from UCF and right next door to the Deko Lounge, where the Cocaine Cowboys were spinning their hard drives and shining their LED flashlights across the dance floor in search of the most reflective hair gel.
We met Jeff the research professor, who told us about his ventures into the world of touring musicians, and how doing research ends up being the same sort of solitary lifestyle with intermittent public performances. When it's just you and the work, you better love to do it.
Brad from Illegal Beats was there with his leg injury from sitting on the couch doing promotional work. We packed up the van, resisting the urge to "ghost ride that whip," and went back to Brad's to unwind and feed the eel. The next morning was the most epic Denny's breakfast of all time, except for the mozzarella stick grilled cheese sandwich, which was too hardcore for us.
Evolution Records has been around for a long time in Lakeland, but Robert built it into the weird scene it is today. The massive collection of vinyl and artwork made from vinyl that's too scratched to be played, the first print Sandinista, The Juice Bros bootleg (which you can't buy anywhere), the soundtrack to the movie Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo.
The stock room has been transformed from a Bicycle coop, which needed more space, into a lounge with old craigslist sofas on stadium seating risers. The stage audio and video are broadcast throughout the store and into the street by a chain of old cathode ray tubes. If they served alcohol it would be the best venue in Lakeland.
We stayed with Chris in his apartment full of guitars and listened to that family of trees song by MGMT that seems to be everywhere right now. We were on the back porch and I guess we must have been loud, because a law enforcement officer rolled up and shined his spotlight on us. Or maybe he recognized us from the acoustic set at DC's, where that guy was playing the kitchen sink.
Groove Stain from Atlanta called and invited us to the recording studio where they work round the clock on their latest reggae funk ska fusion opus. Mike the bass player went to Full Sail University, so he engineers the sound.
We met their manager Russ who offered to add us to the bill at Backstage Lounge in the Rosen Plaza Hotel, alongside Illegal Beats, Ovni Sound System, and Groove Stain. He's a presale pyramid builder, with lower level bands doing the ground work.
On the way to the show we had a tire blow out. Nothing like honing the pit crew skills when it counts. Of course, we're from North Carolina, so we still made it to the show on time.
Our room in the hotel was majorly appreciated. Groove Stain had just vacated it, leaving only damp towels and a staggering smell. We called Pat in his hotel room in LA and watched Varsity Blues together via speakerphone and ordered pizza.
We brought the extra helium to the show, pressurized tanks rolling around the floor boards. We put them on stage and sucked helium and sang the Beatles in chipmunk voices. Fall On Purpose played a full set, and we got to meet the horn section.
Steve came to see us and talk about Jacksonville NC, a strong contender for the title of Armpit of the South. On the way back to Christine's to watch Freaks we noticed that we had picked up Curtis the train hopping bass box percussovocalist from FOP.
To give you an idea of what Curtis is like, his performance at Entersection transformed a God-fearing conservative couple into bisexual dope fiends for an evening. And he never stops. When we were all sleeping on the floor, he snored the loudest.
The next morning we cleaned up the wreckage as Christine made us eggs and biscuits, and dropped Curtis in St. Petersburg on the way North. The silence was majestic.
The sound guy Chris taught me to cut the low end on my bass to reduce the muddy confuzzled sound of those frequencies echoing inside a converted fire station that has enormous beer brewing tanks along the wall.
Fall On Purpose showed up and played on our set break and got everyone bouncing, either dancing or leaving. Curtis kept saying "Like an African," which made the middle aged white audience nervous.
The next day we released balloons with Tony and Jen in memory of their son TJ. We ran out of helium halfway through, so we got 2 more tanks. Then we watched a high school video of TJ conducting witch trials.
The city is surrounded by burial mounds, geometrically precise pyramids of garbage grown over with swamp grass except for the open sore where machine driven belts continually pile on the filth. Black birds circle like Magpies overhead.
On Key Biscayne there is a photo shoot every day, even when it's cloudy. We ate Cuban sandwiches and drank El Presidente amidst flocks of models from far away countries. Further down the beach the pornographers waited for the sun like iguanas.
We played Churchill's Pub with the Kidney Stones. The shepherd's pie was good. Then we shot some video of us running down the 24 floor neon lit glassed in fire escape, crashing through the emergency exit doors onto the roof of the parking deck.
The Wormhole has low ceilings. It's situated in the "dirty thirties" district, where the crack dealers will burn you if you're stupid enough to ask for weed. Inside is a kaleidoscope of original art and memorabilia, the brain towering over the self, the Starship Enterprise. Ed Wood's bizzare masterpiece Plan 9 From Outer Space flickered on the projector.
Will tried to play Trevor's guitar upside down, but failed, and the guy that failed with the crack dealer tried to do stand up comedy. Strike two. Later in the evening he failed with the prostitutes as well. Luckily Jeff was there to tell some good jokes like "My sister said it was just a rope swing," and Adrian was there to be outraged on our behalf and buy us drinks. Thank you Adrian.
Columbia South Carolina
We lost the navigator wheel off the Tascam recorder so now we have to control it with tweezers. It took so long to set up that the batteries died before we could record anything. Why no AC power? We lost that, too.
The first band, Deleveled, had a grungy pop sound with guitar riffs that could stop bullets, and a mandolin player with a beautiful voice. It was Sun Dried Vibes CD release party a t the New Brookland Tavern, a gritty rock club with pedigree, by which I mean band stickers and graffiti arguments on the walls, die hard regulars, and the bare minimum in plumbing facilities.
We met a guy named Scotty who explained his philosophy of dance if you want to, but always have a good time. He was the only guy to brave the dance floor, and he got to practice his mantra when a woman, at least a foot taller than he was, picked him up off the floor, said "I've always wanted to do this," and kissed him. He replied, "I've always wanted to do this," and started kicking his legs like a toddler.
Asheville North Carolina
The convention center where we worked the Big Boss table with Johnny looks from the outside as if it has partially collapsed. Concrete pillars stand naked above massive piles of unmortared stone, like mountain cedars struggling against a rock slide. People kept coming back for the Big Operator, a Belgian black ale aged with raspberries. It tastes like a forbidden dessert in a Tim Burton movie that causes people to float up off the ground, and those who drink too much never come down.
At Fred's Speakeasy they have a drink called the Pickle Pucker. It's chilled Crown Royal chased with a shot of pickle brine. It has no alcohol taste at all. The bar next door, Arcade, had tons of old games like Centipede, Dig Dug, and Street Fighter II. And get this, the pickle juice trick works with any kind of liquor. Back at the hotel, we caught up with some Foothills reps and got a bit noisy, until Richard the hotel detective came and told us to be quiet. Then we took the party out to the van, sat on top of the Big Boss kegs, and sang freestyle reggae over top of Barrington Levy.
The haunted St. Oliver Hotel has closed its doors. All the spooky old wardrobes, smoky mirrors in baroque frames, and musty law books are gone now, auctioned or sold piecemeal by a team of professional estate liquidation specialists. The people who loved it took what they could carry and what they could afford, and the rest went onto the antique market to be reassembled in a different ghostly vortex at present unknown.
So we stayed with Jess, who has no furniture in her new apartment because of a house fire that took everything, including her roommate. She had a charred CD wallet full of mixes from a different universe, made by a different person that she used to be. We ate frozen pizza on the gleaming hardwood floors and listened to the basement tapes.
At Preservation Pub the Milene Roots tore it up with the vocal harmonies, and Tansey was her usual charming self, informing us all that bleached assholes became the industry standard in 1992. Knoxville is a city that is not afraid to be itself, to build a Women's Basketball Hall of Fame with a giant basketball on top, to name their hockey team the Ice Bears, to graffiti in the alleys asking "Will you go to the prom with me?
Boone North Carolina
The first thing that happened was it started snowing. Boone had record snowfall in 2010, almost like 2007 when they had to airlift supplies in because the roads were impassable. The sound guy had to disassemble the stage to bypass a subwoofer that was bugging out. We stood outside in the winter looking at the town huddled on the edge of the mountain. Air Horse is a homemade jam sandwich with extra sticky, which is what they listen to in Boone. Teddy, the keyboard player, has an upcoming internship in NYC, leaving the band's future in question.
We stayed with John Roberts and his American Bulldog Ripsy in a windy stone fortress with paintings on the walls and even the snowboards, one the Slayer logo, another Madonna and Child.
The next morning we ate breakfast with Brian, the Air Horse bass player who looks like punk rock John Lennon. He told us Appalachian State is starting a fermentation program, so that students will be able to major in beer. Finally.
I've started putting my cigarette butts in my pocket. The danger of wildfires is heavily emphasized here. Last night we played the Jambalaya in Arcata. The other band was named NPK for Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Potassium, the ingredients which are added when it's time to make the weed plants flower. You learn something new every day. The California educational system is not doing so hot. The nursing school is shutting down and it seems the whole college may be no longer accredited. It's a big problem because most of the young people living in Arcata are students, or bums, which are referred to as "street lizards" here.
We ate pizza at Don's Donuts. There was a guy who looked like William H. Macy and told us about his life getting movie studios equipped with the knowledge and software to integrate computer animation into their films. He was also a biker and moved to the hippie scene on Haight Ashbury in the 1960s straight out of high school. And because he was there to be of service and not just to party he got to become friends with people who made that scene happen. His name was John Foreal and he said most people can't hold one thought in their head for a full minute. The mind starts to wander too easily. I've been practicing.
Last night we played at the Central Saloon in Seattle. They had a shrine to Kurt, Jimi, and Layne from Alice In Chains. It was sad. Then we got to watch the grindcore scene get wasted and dance to undanceable speed metal. And then this really nice guy from North Carolina named B@^amp;%# let us stay in his room at a hotel for recovering addicts. He works there keeping people in line and his people skills were awesome. He showed us the holes in his arms and legs from massive abscess infections from shooting dirty drugs into his veins. It was brutal. He's been clean for four years. I really hope he makes it.
He told us a fucked up hilarious story about his alcoholic step-dad who moved to Boone with him and helped him plant a bunch of weed. Then the cops came in with a guy dangling from a helicopter spotting patches of weed plants, then some cops came to the door and asked about the weed crops. Stepdad is hammered and leads the cops straight to the nearest field. Well no one is covering the house because they don't know Brandon is there. So he walks out and asks the cops what is going on, and makes his way down the sidewalk and out of there real casually.
We went out to breakfast because the jackhammers woke us up at 9:00, the ATHF menu still cycling. We went down to the fish market and ate breakfast. I had pancakes, eggs, and bacon. The eggs were almost raw. It was delicious. The place was a cross between breakfast and asian seafood. The waitress was asian and said thank you in a highly repetitive way. Then we went to the park and took the forest or the meadow trail from some woman who would not give us a map and had huge cathode ray tube spectacles and a gray mustache.
We played John's Alley and the sound guy used to work for The Melvins. The bartender Perk had patrons throwing their empty glasses to him over the bar. He was really good at catching them, even when Dave threw one kinda short. The first night we didn't have a sound guy at all, so we threw down with our PA and people had an awesome time. We met this guy named Jonathon Treasure and stayed with him for two nights and there was an awesome jam session with this girl who played cello and this guy who played Weezer.
We went to Elk River falls and saw elk and these amazing surging waterfalls gushing over volcanic pentagonal rock formations. It started hailing on us while we hiked back to the van. On the way out we noticed a sign that said the area we had just explored was closed because of dangerous conditions. We started working on a music video of us popping in and out of the trees. We had guns, bananas, books, a giant trout, a flag, and a Japanese mask. We're going to speed up the sequence so it looks like silent movie comedy. We also jumped out of a huge tree and tried to take weightless pictures.