April 2004Tour Diary, what exactly should that be? I could just write a list of facts, like the street addresses of the clubs and houses I played at and who else played, or a list of all the people I hung out with in every town I went to, or I could list the 28 cd's, five 3" cdR's, two lp's, three 7" singles, and 7 cassettes that people gave me, or I could just tell my favorite stories, which is what I think I'll do.
I had the most fun in Baltimore. I got there a day early because I had nothing to do and I wanted to see the show that night anyway (I was playing as part of a 4-day festival that Lexie Mountain set up). PCPCG (Chiara Giovando and Carly Ptak) were awesome, and Little Howlin' Wolf took everyone by surprise with a totally sincere take on outsider blues, phenomenal. (He just recorded a bunch of new stuff with Twig engineering, that's a record to hold your breath waiting for for sure!) After the show we were having a sleepover at Tarantula Hill (Twig and Carly's house), we heard a car screech around the corner, and then saw someone slumped in the doorway of New York Fried Chicken. Twig went down to check it out, it turned out to be a 16 year old boy, they'd stabbed him in the thigh and thrown him out the back door of the speeding car! Welcome to Baltimore!
The next morning we got up early to go play basketball. It was supposedly three on three but the individual competition was intense, it was me versus Chiara, Lexie versus Mitch (who lives in SF now), and Stuart (who's opening a record store with Ian Nagoski) versus Caleb (Twig's brother). Watch out for that Chiara, she's aggressive! Later that day we took Lexie's new dog for a walk at the dog pound she works at, and Caleb played me a private show on his Roland synthesizer, it was really fantastic! He's doing a record later this year, make sure to get one.
The show that night was a lot of fun, except the first twenty minutes after we got to the club. We didn't get there until almost 10 pm, and all the employees were freaking out and yelling at us. "Nobody even sound checked! The show should have started a half hour ago! Now everyone's going to have to play short sets! This sucks!" They wouldn't listen to reason, which was that we all play short sets anyway, and none of us sound check. But the bartender especially was pissed, and refused to give anyone drink tickets as punishment. So for the talking part of my set (most of the shows, I played "Messy Mystery" or "Unlimited Possibilities" first, then talked to the audience while I changed the patch over, then played "New Secret") I told everyone about how I used to be a booking agent and a bartender, and I hated it because I always had to deal with flaky bands that showed up late, and never got any thanks, and generally did my best to thank Lexie but also butter up the club employees. It obviously worked because the bartender started giving me free drinks. His specialty was some kind of bright blue shot. I got plastered, wheeee!
The Tarantula Hill sleepover that night was more than twice as big, there were Angela and Derrick from Taiwan Deth, Tom from Jackie-O-Motherfucker, Chiara, Caleb, Jeff Hartford (Noise Nomads), Max who lives at the Hill now, Twig and Carly (of course), and all eight members of No Neck Blues Band! Thank god Twig and Carly bought such a big house.
I saw some other friends at the Baltimore shows, Tom Borum and Dan Breen. They both play in a ton of bands, my favorite one being Snacks, which is the two of them playing synthesizers. But I'd most recently seen them when I played with the Dorkestra in Portland Maine, the second show of the thirteen I did. I was really excited to play that night because two years ago I sold my favorite amp to Christopher Forgues, aka Kites. I recently got it back on a trade, and this was my first show playing through it again. It worked out great, it gets loud when you want it to and dead silent when you want it to. But something was wrong with the house p.a. in Maine, so I let the Dorkestra use my amp. They had the volume up all the way, but it was really quiet, then it suddenly went dead. It turned out the speaker cable was bad, and they'd blown my amp up! Luckily I had the next day off so I went to the repair shop and fixed it, but I wasn't too happy. Well anyway when I was in Baltimore I told Lexie this story, and she said "You know what, the last time Leprachaun Catering (another of Tom's bands) played a show I set up, they blew up the p.a. that time too!" So the moral of the story (if there is one) is go see Tom's bands, because he's really good with electronics, but never let him borrow your amp!
Speaking of electronics, the show at RISD, which was all people who build their own instruments, was really amazing. It was awesome spending time with Peter Blasser (he also put up a tour diary, [the link changed, and we haven't found the now one yet]), John Fashion Flesh, Josh Hydeman, and Kevin Bewersdorf (who set it up). But the surprise of the night was Michael Johnson, from Pittsburgh. He sat on the floor of the back corner of the stage, and played for forty minutes, as if he was at home and just playing for himself. His electronics made the most natural sounds I'd ever heard. It was a rare treat (he doesn't have any recordings and rarely plays out), and I don't think I'll ever forget it.
The only out-of-control thing that happened on the tour was in Boston. Everyone was jumping up and down during Fat Worm of Error, and the new employee at O'Briens, who was long frizzy hair like he's in a thrash band, threw out Shane Broderick of Two Dead Sluts. Shane went home and got a mop, then came back to the bar and started waving it in the guy's face. Then they started fighting right in the middle of Harvard Ave! You'll be happy to know that Shane won, but I don't think we'll be having any more noise shows at O'Briens, oh well.
I really enjoyed playing these shows this time, I liked hearing my own music loud, and I liked dancing. But my favorite part of all the shows was the talking part in between songs. Sometimes the audience didn't feel comfortable to have a conversation, so I just talked to everyone, but a lot of the time we had really great conversations. In Portland, I talked about how I had missed my synthesizer the 2 1/2 months it was in the art show, and how I was happy to have it back, but we weren't totally on the same wavelength yet. In Western Mass, I talked about the amazing sounds that some amps make when they're malfunctioning, and how I regretted working at the repair shop and "fixing" so many circuits that made such beautiful songs. In Boston, it was hard for me to get out a complete thought because of all the heckling my friends were doing, but mostly we talked about drinking too much and personal boundaries. In Providence I talked about the repair shop I used to work at, and the phenomena of "operator error" (being convinced a machine doesn't work when you're actually just trying to use it the wrong way), and Peter and I told the story about the fight at O'Briens. In New York, we talked about frustrations with technology that we don't understand. In Chicago, I talked about challenges to oneself and taking personal risks. In Columbus, we talked about intimacy (everyone squeezed into the kitchen while I played). In Baltimore, we talked about the thankless job of booking shows, and the frustrations of working at a bar where flaky bands play. In D.C., we talked about Ned Ludd and the Luddites, who went around smashing agricultural machines because they thought it was taking work away from human beings. In Philadelphia, we talked about secrets, ones you keep from other people and ones you keep from yourself. In Princeton New Jersey, we talked about trepanation, where a doctor cuts a hole in a person's skull to let out the demons or otherwise cure their headache. In New Brunswick I talked to everyone about how I was far away from home in an unfamiliar place, and I felt uncomfortable, and I needed everyone to focus with me so that I could play a good show (it worked, we all went into a trance together). In Purchase New York, I talked about being homesick and missing my family, and also about what I'd talked about with people in all the other towns, to recap the tour for myself at the last show. The last show was my favorite one of all, because it was with Kites and Prurient, and the three of us in a row had a magical kind of drama, hopefully it will happen again. . .