j mascis and the fog
watt - thud staff
j mascis - guitar, singing
george berz - drums
(left to right)
eric fischer - tour boss
jamie - soundman
tim - helper man
steve kaul - the man outside the van
monday, november 13, 2000 - san francisco, ca
I pop and shower and get out to the van to unfold the little folder bike. this pedro man is going to pedal today! sun is out bright and the town in lit good, thank you. I put my back pack on and sling the 'puter bag over my shoulder and head off north. I'm gonna go to the water and then head east on the embarcadero to lisa and kenny's pad on townsend, where I'm gonna stay for the next couple of days. I've known lisa for over twenty years - her sister nanny was my first girlfriend (nanny does all the t-shirt art for my tours). lisa moved up here a maybe seven years ago. I got some hills to get over to get to the water - boy they're steep in this town! I stop at this pad and drink a coffee w/an express thrown in it, whoa! rocket fuel for the leg strokes. this little bike is tough to do inclines w/it's one gear, tiny wheels and funky scooter-like handlebars. I just press on hard though, I am just so joyed to be on boad her again - it's been way over a week, so long. when I do make it to the piers, the land all levels out and things are a much easier go. I stop at "red's java house" and have a salami sandwich, neat old working folks chow pad - no pretension here. you know, this town is being assaulted w/all kinds of dot.com $ and facade, everything going stale and sterile. big shame, I could go on and on but fuck that, too much of a bummer. in the back of my mind, I'm still optimistic the forces of creativity and expression will win out in the end.
what a feast of eye gifts for me as I pedal along the waterfront, I love it - love sea air, love birds, love boats, love water. I take it all in am sent a million miles into heaven. have to stay somewhat aware though, cars are jamming everywhere and there's not much protection on a two-wheeled person-powered pedaler. I get on over to lisa's. she works downstairs from her pad where she organizes chinese immigrant ladies doing embroidery. I scare her, she thinks I'm an insane bike messenger w/my bright orange helmet. it's got a lot of it's original black showing now. it's been so chipped up w/shit always getting piled on top of it in the back of the van. aaarrgggghhhh. if those people only had priorities (or knew of mine)! anyway, she takes me up and there's kenny - I know him for a long time too from doing gigs in the bay area, since early fIREHOSE days. I drop my two sacks off here and get back to pedaling! down to the new giants baseball field and along the wharves south of it. I pedal my fucking brains out, I dig it!
soundcheck time and I head for the pad we're playing these next two nights, _slim's_. dawn's here to greet me, haven't played for her in a while. my last few s.f. gigs have been at the _bottom of the hill_ which is a great pad too. let me see, I did work for dawn last year but it was at a noe valley presbyterian church, accompanying rickie lee jones. those were some intense shows for watt, I didn't know any of her songs and had to improvise right along side her in the moment as we were doing the gig. at first, it was a guitarist and me on bass along w/her but then she scissored him and it was just me - damn. I was sweating bullets. I'm glad I did it though, she was great. stewart, who's here tonight too was there and we recount those nights after I visit w/dawn. j comes w/some purple lowtop chuck taylor all stars for me, he found some on haight street. these are great, thank you j! we got all his amps working, wonder what did happen at that seattle fubar? some kind of whammy, for sure. after soundcheck I pedal back to lisa and kenny's, only a couple of miles maybe. lisa gives me a purple pull-over shirt w/tiny holes all over it, like an athletic thing. funny on watt. I'll wear tonight when we play, under my flannel w/it unbuttoned. I pedal back for the show. this is happening, being free on the little pedaler.
the caustics open but no mike johnson, he's back to seattle to get ready to play w/mark lannegan and his next solo thing. I hear them from the dressing rooms downstairs. I'm drinking bottle after bottle of this reed's ginger brew j's got me into gulping. no alcohol but plenty of bite, I'm into it. there's three kinds but I still can't tell the difference. one's got yellow bottle caps, one's got green and one's got red. j likes green. he makes me some green tea. I am all full of fluid! I need a take a big fucking piss before we go on. shit, george has to before every gig and right after too! he must have a bladder like a thimble, just like joe baiza. our time for gig and it's a good one though the pad is like half full. wonder why? no matter, hills and valleys, that's what life's about and you gotta work the gig like it's your last - you never know when it will be. lisa takes pictures of us playing but they're trippy shots as I find out later. like of our shoes and the way my shirt gets more and more sweaty as the gig goes on. funny.
gig done, I get back on the bike and pedal back. we went on early so it's only midnight. the streets are real empty, barren. I got a little light under my seat that blinks but I can't see that. everything, dark and still, only the sound of my little tires on the road. in this big town and all solemente, what a trip. it is monday night though. the pea coat's keeping me warm and I pedal like a motherfucker and get my heart rate way up. when I get back, my head's on a big rush, I'm pumped. adrenaline from the gig too. it takes some spiel and mota to calm me down and then konk overtakes me and I'm slumped on my back on their deck. I think I was in the middle of a sentence during yet another of one of my endless spiels.
tuesday, november 14, 2000 - san francisco, ca
pop and shower quick, I'm pedaling down to candlestick where the giants used to play. third street takes you all the way down there, through bay view. I get some coffee there. they put a shot of espresso in it and call it the "depth charger." this espresso in the coffee thing, something new for watt. I just really dig being able to pedal though. at candlestick, I ride all around the stadium. it's right by the water. there's this tiny pier, just big enough for one person and I ride way out on it until it ends and sit on my pedaler there, just watching the ocean. the little bay here is all sparkled silver w/glints and shimmer from the sun. I am surrounded in it. my mind floats w/the reflections. I reflect on this and let my mind go. I think of pedro, where I'll be tomorrow, hopefully.
I pedal back. wow, a three hour ride - great! I do a phone interview w/a cat from 'bass player' magazine named greg who's very nice. it's for their 'on the road' department and they want to know what I did and what it's like playing w/j - using the pick and marshall and all... playing in someone elses thing and stuff like that. it's interesting. we don't too hung up in hardware and gear stuff and I talk about more of the human things involved, like inspiration and intuition, learning to take the lead from others and following direction. he's gonna be at the gig w/a photographer later. I ride my bike over for soundcheck and back when we're done. I wore the purple flannel j gave me in nyc to take my 'bass player' photos. wore lisa's black flag pin too.
time for gig and it's back on the little folder and more pedaling. I love this. through the streets of the south of market area, wheels on the bike spinning like the ones in my mind. the _beechwood sparks_ are opening, they're doing that faded denim thing they do and I'm digging it. our turn next. not too good of a gig in a way. I don't know, the energies are crazy. the front panel of the marshall amp falls off from the rumble - you can see the tubes and the transformers. shit gets shaking when this baby's baking! this whole set-up is such a trip for me. I wonder how it sounds out front? from where I'm standing, it is one roar of a motherfucker, believe me. doesn't sound like there's any tone at all, just all rocket motor thrust. and j's side is slinging twice as much but he sounds good. I should say feels good cuz his bruiser sound has got me in a bodylock (not just a headlock). at times, I just gotta start busting up w/laughter cuz it's so enormous and over the top. especially in this part of "thumb" where me and george stop and j just wails on his own. that shit is funny. j plays good, so does george but for some reason, I ain't doing too good, some clams and I just kind of lost my nerve a little. I dig playing w/the purple flannel on and I want to show the 'bass player' mag writer what I can bring to j so I focus hard. this gig is just a struggle for me. sometimes it goes like that. I just figure it's more ways to keep me thinking and in the present. anything to keep you from living on cruise-control or autopilot when you're on stage is a good thing. thinking of d. boon, I gotta play every gig like it's my last. clams can be teachers. I gotta learn.
gig done. time to pedal back. more quiet streets, well it's monday night - of course. me, on the little pedaler - in my head, all racing cuz of the adrenaline the gig put in me. I love this. I wish I could finish every gig this way: pedaling back through a serene scene. I think of those I love too. when I'm happy, I want somehow those too to be happy so some way I can share it w/them, through the miles, through the minutes, through the thoughts. I get to kenny and lisa's and up the stairs w/the pedaler. time to pedal now in my dreams. time to konk.
wednesday, november 15, 2000 - san pedro, ca
ok, pop and start thinking of my town, pedro. no time to pedal anywhere except to the mo where the guys are staying. big byes to lisa and kenny, put the pea coat on, sling the 'puter over the shoulder and I'm off around the emarcadero again to me up w/my team. it's been eight weeks and I miss my town. the four hundred mile ride south down the I-5 through cali's farmland is uneventful and my brain is stuffed w/anticipation. my team is staying at a ho in west hollywood, near the _troubador_, where we're gonna be playing tomorrow and the next night. me, I'm going home to pedro. my sister melinda comes up to get me and brings me south twentyfive miles to the harbor.
it's strange returning to my pad. it's the first time I've ever come back to a place w/no life. last year when I got that horrible sickness, I had to find a home for the little girl cat, the one melinda gave me when the man (the cat I had for seventeen years, he died in the summer of 1999) was getting older and needed a companion. an eerie feeling came over me, the pad was so quiet. a ton of mail was sitting in a postal service carton, another ton on the table. still, it was good to be back, even if for just a couple days. the first thing I did was get into the tub - there's nothing like a bath for me in my own pad. I must've spent two hours in there, 'til then skin on my hands was all pruned up. all melted, I was now putty. to konk on my own deck after all the hellrides and gigs, what a gift. I konk easy and gently.
thursday, november 16, 2000 - west hollywood, ca
even though I'm home in my town, I still pop early. I can't wait - I get to pedal on my own route! first, I gotta oil up the chain and pump some air in the tires, it's been two months! ok, got that done. boy, is it weird having gears again. and bigger wheels! I also don't have to tower above the little scooter-like handlebars like on the folder. in fact, I have big stingray handlebars on my regualr bike so my hands can rest up high while the weight gets shifted to the seat. what a joy to ride this machine! I first go to the little grave yard a block away, the 'harbor view cemetery,' our oldest one here in pedro. they got the town's first church there too, from the 1880s it got moved there in the 50s though never used any more. then I head down to pacific avenue and start watt's pedaling path. I feel so very lucky and grateful to be able to be doing this. though simple, it's one of the things I truly live for these days. I love keeping my eyes open wide while I pedal and let what I call 'eye gifts' just fall right in. I savor every bit, I love it! it almost makes me cry, my feelings about this are so strong. I love my town. I ring my bell to all the pelicans I see, I call out to them, "hey pelicanmen!" I see a flock of wild parrots, I call out, "hey loudmen!" (they're from the jungles in mexico and are very loud w/their yammering - I really dig it). I wave to the boats. I get off at royal palms and sit on the rocks at the shore. I let the waves spray me w/foam. catalina island sits out in front and my mind starts to think and wonder. I let the sun both warm me w/rays and hypnotize me w/light. I catch the gleamers bouncing off the water and sparkle up my eyes. this is so intense on me, I truly want to share this w/others, I want to fill them w/this same feelings I have but know I can't. I mean, I can't even describe it right, the sum of it all is just so reduced by even trying to find the words for to fit them in. it's under-meaning is beyond what I can mouth or write. I am one w/the moment. the breakers' roar is like a baby opera being sung to me, my mind is almost carried right out in an emotional sea. more crying. I have to get on the bike. I continue on. up the big cardiac hill, whew! - that was intense. the wind is really blowing, makes pedaling quite a treadmill. lots of effort for every inch but that's good - got my heart going, really going - pounding out of my chest going! down paseo del mar and then the lighthouse. next to it, looking down, the waves were so choppy, oh my, even inside the breakwater the sea was so rough. the rocks below the cliffs were getting pounded but the sun coming down so made the wave-sledges so elegant and beautiful in their glistenings. deep, deep blues and sparkle bright silver white crests and tops. so much eye gift for one mind - and that wind, whoa! I would stand on my pedals and use all my weight just to move me a little more down the road. I felt like the sail on a tall ship, tied to the mast by ankle and wrist but torqued in the middle. I stopped and chowed fish and eggs at canetti's. further, the docks, the fishing boats, tugboats, fireboat, the huge vincent thomas bridge over me, slav hall and finally mr. kim at his little store. good to see him again, it's been a while. he's glad to see me too. "thank you, mr. kim." thank you, mr. mike."
I as much catch-up as I can do 'til it's an hour before soundcheck. it takes an hour w/the fucked traffic of so cal to get from pedro to hollywood. time to go. the _troubador_ has a lot of history but I'm just want to blow it all out tonight. starting out w/"mike's house" (I wonder what the real name of this song is, "what else is new?" or something like that?), we get into it. first time I've played in my area w/a pick since the minutemen - and w/a marshall stack, how intense. the gig goes good. j's kicking up much dust and george is right along w/him, sure is neat supply the low thud to it all. I get real sweaty like most nights - these cats inspire me and I give it all. the crowd is really good to us and give a bunch back, thank you! a job well done by all in this pad tonight. such a trip to be going to my own deck to konk on, you can guess how I feel about that!
friday, november 17, 2000 - west hollywood, ca
yes, another bike ride in my town! pop and pedal quick. yep, got tons of catch-up but fuck it, I'm pedaling first. then a soak in my own tub. in some ways, I am a simple man. then to the piles of mail and to get bills together, I got another month away and no way to take care of this stuff.
tonight, we're at the _troub_ again and this time I'm gonna bring a posse of pedro folk. I'm bringing my old friend and neighbor tony the pool man (known him thirty years), my other old friend richard "fuckin'" bonney the plumber and henry mitchell the handy man. it's good to have my pedro friends w/me, I want them to see me play w/j. we get to the pad and dirk vandenberg the airplane man, my other neighbor and old friend is there too. great! and look who also comes - it's kira! she wants to see me play too. this is intense. I don't go up to the dressing room, I just stay on the floor and watch the openers, _beechwood sparks_ play their set. I get into what they're doing. I'm trying to hide the tension, it sure is scary being in front of my people but like I said, I want them to see me w/j - it's important to me.
when it comes time for us, I just walk up on stage from the crowd cuz that's where I've been. the set starts and I'm petrified, playing for my old friends. I know they'll support me and that means not just blowing smoke but giving me the truth about how they feel. that's how you support watt, be straight w/them - it's not just about buffing badges. of course the nervousness overwhelms me and I blow clams right in the first tune - what an idiiot. I'm so nervous and self-conscious in front of kira, like when I play in front of elizabeth - I just can't keep it together, what a doof. j should come over to my side and knock my shit out. instead, he plays even better and this helps me bear down and get it together. he radiates confidence and that calms my inside shit down kind of, helping me focus and get my bass down the road w/the rest of us fog. finally, we finish the opener (which seems to go on for enternity due my embarrassment w/all the fucking clams I blew at the beginning) and I squeeze the little bass really hard, both its neck and body - I must force myself into the moment and overcome who? me! I look over at the hatch and have feelings of wanting to bolt - hold up, watt... ok, we continue and like I said, I just pull into tow behind j and things start calming down for me internally. I have to forget even what town I'm playing, even my pedro buds I rode up w/tonight. it works, and the fog roars along w/j. then what happens? I smell this smoke, look down behind me and the bottom cabinet is on fire! whoa. unplug that shit. looks like I'm just going through the marshall and the top box now. damn, hope j ain't mad for me blowing up his shit. the crowd is really into it, not just the fire but the whole set and we're riding on a good spirit wave. when we finish I quickly go up to j and apologize. he says he's into it, says it's good to blow shit up, wreck it, set it on fire. whoa. I guess I did good.
there's a party w/the beechwood sparks guys at some bourgeois pad close by but I'm getting back to pedro w/my cats. we have some good laughs riding down the freeway. I'm feeling much better now that the gig's done. trippy how that works, huh? I feel very much a lucky man. I drop everyone off and then the adrenaline starts running out. konk comes easy moments after hitting the deck. my last pedro konk for a month - I dream some dreams so strange I can't even remember them. whoa.
saturday, november 18, 2000 - san diego, ca
my pedalin' for a month - no way to bring the little folder to europe so I fucking pedal my brains out big time. down by the water, I get off the bike and give a big prayer of thanks to be able to pedal at all. I can wait a month. barely. I bathe in the pedro sun and savor the waves slapping the rocks, wetting me w/foam. I love it. bye town.
the crew is already in san diego, where our next gig is so my friend elena takes me down to the _casbah_, run by an old buddy of mine, harlan. he's done tons of gigs. _unida_ is opening for us tonight and they have a monster bassist named scott. this cat blasts! he tells me he's got a cow he's gonna q for a big chow in february. he asks me to come help and shovel it down when it's time. wow, I wonder if he's gonna get to really know it while it's still alive? sort of like 4-h club, huh? he is one great bass cat, it's something to watch him thump it up. eddie from nebula's here, great! then jovi, my old bud comes by, great to hug this man again. jen davis too - oh boy! this is a small pad but very happening to play. the stage is barely big enough to put all our stuff on. I've only had problems like that when I was helping perry and the porno guys but you can imagine w/j's wall o'tube, transformer and speaker. we manage though.
the pad is packed and the gig goes great, really good. I break two strings. only the third gig where I've broke strings. I changed them quick though while j gave them a solo piece. later, I'll get an email from jovi [email@example.com] saying this:
"watt! this is jovi. last night was one the best gig I've seen in a long time. you and mascis were on fire! I don't know how far into the tour you are, but things were sounding very intense. this man (j) brings out something amazing in you. in the past few years I've seen you play in some very interesting groups and have heard some great music, but last night something was different. I think that j offered you a challenge and you are giving him some of your best playing (with or without a pick). I even dug up a pick and applied it to my playing this morning, I was inspired, and it's been along time since I've had that feeling after a gig. j is a badass motherfucker, quiet yet intense. I know what you mean by the comparison too early g.ginn. please let him know that I've seen him play with dino.jr in various forms (w/lou, mike j, van conner) but this was the best I've seen him play ever. I remember you telling me how j told you he learned the whole "what makes a man start fires?" album when he was playing the drums. that helps me too see the connection he had to you before he probably ever met you. the power of music is so beautiful and I saw that again last night. I'm very proud to say that I was part of what took place last night. richard bonney called me this morning to see if I went last night, and he was equally exicited about the gigs he saw up at the _troubador_. as we were talking we both realized that this might be your best endeavor yet. I hope that the tour continues too be spritual experience ever night for you guys. I'm really jealous of the fun your having, I got to get it back together and get that pure feeling back, conecting with your brothers is one of the best things in the world. stay strong.
p.s. you and j were super tight on "blowing it" it was like you were the kirkwood brothers, beautiful!"
we get done and there's no dressing room or off-stage spot so we go to the van, parked out front. I'm so sweaty, I steam the windows right up. what's really funny is cuz we're parked out front, everyone coming out of the club is looking at us just sitting in the van, steaming it up. j calls it "the terrarium." we're boys in the bubble, fogging it up. later on the deck, thinking about this, I'm still busting up. the j can hit the shit right on the button. damn.
sunday, november 19, 2000 - deming, nm
pop and then hose off quick, gotta get out and hoof. I couldn't believe what I found in san diego this morning. I walked all along their harbor - lots of navy still there on north island. two aircraft carriers even. my pop served on one, the first nuke one called the enterprise (like star trek!) and I thought of him. they had something from pedro in a maritime museum that was on an old ferry boat, the berkeley. you won't believe it. I also got a book on how the longitude problem got solved. this is one of the underlying plots of this umberto eco book "the island of the day before." also in the harbor was a tall ship called the "star of india," the oldest iron hull sailing ship in the world, it was righteous to go aboard. since 1865, all those old ghosts. it did twentyone circumnavigations before the twentieth century! wow. to walk on those decks...
we start rolling towards texas. next stop is austin. what a fucking hellride, like 1600 miles. too bad j and george have to miss it, they're forced to fly. they miss out on the desert - lots of it. we take I-8 east and parallel the mexican border for a while and then head for tucson. from there, we take the I-10 into new mexico. for me, this country is just as pretty as forest or mountains, it has its own character and natural beauty. I love the colors and textures. the shapes the wind blows into the rocks and elevations are incredible. mesas looking like giant helipads, stone formations resembling giant knotty turds, sediment streaks painting cliff sides, saguaro cactus gesturing human-like and that endless black strip of freeway, ever in front of us, painting a racing stripe down the back of this heat-baked landscape. the united states is lucky to contain such variety in its panorama. I remember years ago taking a dutch soundman, a cat who had us call him joe from venlo, through these parts and it blew his mind. pity folks take it for granted or even worse, pay no mind. in my opinion, what comes through the van's windows is rich w/eye gifts, big time.
darkness descends and I lobby for dropping anchor and pulling into a port. why up the odds for a nightmare by driving at night when you don't have to? we got three days and if we shut down early, we can bail early and use up the next day's light for driving. night driving is scary: big wind, animals in the road, methamphetamined truckers - just use your imagination and guess at the possibilities. there's some resistance but I'm grateful they see my point and we find a motel-six in deming, nm - just west of las cruces. mo-six, reminds me of some fIREHOSE or black gang tours. I grab a chunk of the deck by the hatch and crumple for konk. rolling, rolling, rolling can sure wear a sailor out!
read week 3 of the tour diary
read week 5 of the tour diary
loop back to mike watt's hoot page