tom watson - guitar
vince meghrouni - drums
watt - thud staff, spiel
steve kaul - the man outside the van
tuesday, september 21 - sacramento, ca
diana drops me off at the practice pad at 11:15am after our last meal at sions' for a while. I'm still digesting as mike and I do a quick pack and shove off around noon. mike has some loose ends to tend to and we have to hit his record label before we pick up vince out in echo park but the van decides to deny us this request. the battery is dead. it's close to 2pm and vince is probobly wondering what's up, but it turns out that our proximity is near some friends of mine and I set out for help. the van has fresh tires, brakes, u-joint...so it seems fit to add a battery to that list. after some walking through santa monica I get to my good friend tim blums' gallery and luckily he's there. even more luckily he has time to lend us his time to hunt down a battery, that ends up more difficult than expected. sears doesn't have it, another joint fails us and finally ac delco comes through. soon we're off to echo park, and vince and linda show relief when show up at 3:30pm.
after the long road from l.a. to sacramento we load in and set up where the band juan taun taun is warming up their local friends on a tuesday night at bojangles, and by the time we get on stage we've been traveling for 12 hours. the gig is a bit of a new environment being that it is our first time out of the practice room and in front of people, but it serves as a good way for us to break the ice. the folks that came out we very supportive and help our mood onstage whenever we had difficuly, very kind indeed. we had a good time but I was a little nervous here and I need to keep eye contact with mike more to keep focused. after our load out we spend the night with mikes friends consepcion and felix.
am I plier? I am plier. we shove off late due to minor mishap; you've probably read about the dead battery already and how fortuitous it was that it happened at the git go rather than on some desolate stretch. keep a light heart says mike and he's right, isn't he? and I get to hang with linda that much longer before leaving for this seven week adventure. sacto - the audience is supportive and we can use it on our shakedown gig. first show and of course there'll be bugs. bugs there are, too, but we watt and pliers grin and dig in and da kids are behind us. we had 3 weeks of practice to prep for the tour but there was a lot of music to learn and it had to be learned right, so memory flounders here and there given the adversity of the first one and the adversities of live vs. practice-room playing. it's a good gig, all told. the fact that we saw past the rough spots for the good of the music and the show is very good - it's team play. and team play gets it done, ask magic. afterwards we head to concepcion and felix's to crash. they are compadres of watt and are so full of enthusiasm and good will it blankets us with good vibe.
started getting ready for this hell-ride at five in the morning. sure, the boat ain't shoving off 'till eleven a.m. but I got shit to do. spaced on the postcards and got to get them to fletch. the canadian ones gotta be in envelopes so I'm stuffing them too. don't want the shit out too early anyway cuz the folks will forget, there's lots on everyone's minds besides watt's hell-rides. also gotta get the boat new rubber (fourth set of michellins - eighty thousand each on the first three) cuz there was a little more work to do before when I found the rear axel seals blown out by some mensa member who overfilled the differential. oh well, there's nothing I won't do for the boat - she's the center of my touring universe. I love her.
tom watson is playing guitar w/this new unit I'm touring, _the pair of pliers_. he gets dropped off in pedro and we load our bass and guitar stuff from the practice pad. we've put in four weeks of solid prac to get this show together and it's pretty intense. you know, for almost the last six years I haven't had a steady band and just put together units to do projects that come up in my head and it's a trip. like hodge told me, "being a little bit scared is like being a little bit excited" so it's worth the jitters of just foisting the whole thing on the folks. don't want to stumble into the cruise-control or autopilot mode, you know. this shit makes watt realize he's alive in real time and not on some kind of fucking hold. I think it's worth the risk and am glad I got the nerve now. damn, it's a struggle though. I feel as though I'm shitting out a pecan log and using sandpaper to wipe w/so what the fuck anyway if it's called fear or anxiety. is fear something from things real and anxiety from things imagined? thank god I have to wrestle this bass w/my own very hands and not have to conceptualize the shit or I would be bathing in babble, popping the fart bubbles as they bloom all about me. thanks too for the trio and having something to attach the fucking rudder to! that's why I'm calling this band _the pair of pliers_: it's really one, not a pair. same goes for pair of pants, pair of scissors, etc... everyone knows it's a single entity cuz that's the way it's used in practice. the bass is glue and what is it w/nothing to stick too? a puddle, that's it.
the other pair of the pliers is vince meghrouni and he's waiting for me and tom. he played w/me in my _crew of the flying saucer_ four years ago on the "clam blow" and "shinebox" tours, an experiment where I actually had a four piece - kind of like a trio w/an extra man on the drums. he also has his own band called _bazooka_ which is on a sort of hiatus right now. steve reed was their last bass player. vince is a great cat and I know he's way up to this challenge and I'm proud once again to sail w/him. let me tell you about tom, he goes back far into the old so cal south bay scene w/a band from manhattan beach called _slovenly_ which was also located for a while up in s.f. before they called it quits. d. boon and me had this label called _new alliance_ and we put out a few of their records. tom now plays w/the _red krayola_ (along w/george hurley) and has started his own band (tom watson and the best of all) which has started doing gigs and has a record coming. oops, I digress - vince is waiting for me and tom up at his pad in echo park but we got to stop and give fletch these postcards. what happens next? the battery dies right after I hand over to him! whoa! the luck of the draw. it was a nine year old battery anyway and if it's gonna go, it's good it went at the start of the first leg. we're in santa monica so luckily tom knows some cats there and is running around on foot looking for them, any of them. tom knows some art people and there's a gallery near and a cat he knows luckily is there and he visits a bunch of pads before he finally finds one that can sell him the right battery. I'm on the side of the road w/the dead battery hoisted out and waiting for the replacement. vince must be shitting his brains out worrying where the fuck we are. the first day of tour can be like this so I ain't in a panic but I don't want vince worrying. we switch batteries and get to vince and I hug him big time, telling him "damn, can you believe it?" not amazingly, vince can. we pile his drums in and we're off, waving bye to linda as we head north to sacramento.
the cat who does my gigs in sacto is brian mckenna and I dig him much. I've played _bojangle's_ (sometimes it was callled "the cattle club") over ten times and will do any time brian will have me. he is truly good peeps. I leave a message on his machine saying we'll get there for set time and load right from the boat to the stage. he knows watt and has been around the block more than a few times w/the nut from pedro so I'm guessing there's no panic on his end either. the opening band is _juan tuan tuan_ and they're a trip. the bass player has some neat old machines! a fiftyfive p-bass and sixtyseven nonreversed thunderbird, damn! they're a trio and the guitar player kind of reminds me of kurt kirkwood in his singing. I can't really decipher the songs but notice the last one - it's an old minutemen one I ain't heard in ages called "the big lounge scene." damn, that blew my mind. I wonder if anyone else in that pad knew? probably brian. we go on and it's the first gig ever for the _pair of pliers_, right after a seven hour hell-ride too, perfect water-breaker! tom and vince do well, even if there's a bunch of clams and shit. what I'm caring about is the spirit and these cats are full of it. the crowd is great too, ok for a tuesday at a watt show in sacramento number-wise but big time as far as the feeling goes. makes it easy to try your best and swing hard. I tell me cats, the dialogs we set up between us w/these instruments is what's fundamental here, don't worry about the clams that much. capture the spirit and let me run that train down the track. the crowd wants us back for a bunch of encores and this a good feeling knowing what you're doing up on the stage is not in vain. we all try to give back as much as we're getting. much respect to you, fine folks of sacto.
an old friend from the old minutemen days comes to show and surprises me, it's concepcion and she now lives w/her husband mario in sacramento and has us over to konk. she has this giant long haired tabby that's great. it reminds of the man, my old friend of many years, who passed away this summer from brain cancer. I had him since the minutemen days. he was the best and it's a struggle to be here w/out him, I loved him so. it's still very painful for me and I think of him always. he was always there for me, no matter what and he gave back every bit of love I had for him, never judging. special man. I miss him so. one of the reasons I'm out here on this tour is cuz I was feeling so down I just wanted to get out and do some gigs to work out of the funk his passing put me in. I work that bass even more deeply in honor of him and when no one's around, cry out for him. sure, only a cat maybe but he was something else to me.
I think of him as I slip under a heavy blanket of sueno and imagine his face as the expanse of the whole cosmos as I stare through the roof up into the stairs. no whisky for watt this tour (I pretty much quit drinking beer years ago) and so it's a not a jim beam induced konk but rather a sad feeling of loss for that man but also a little relief we got through this first day of tour.
wednesday, september 22 - san francisco, ca
wake up slowly talking of the old days of punk rock in south l.a., and I remember that the best thing about touring is the people that you have the good fortune to meet (again and again). the drive to s.f. is our first time to reflect as a band and the short trip ends at a b.b.q. on divisidero before hitting the bottom of the hill club in the potrero hill distict. time passes and I contact friends and my pal kyle is the first to appear. as usual he has a plan and provides me with a momentary venture to the docks. he's a member of the bay club there and we hang out with the locals and drink beer and talk about the past when I was living there with my old band slovenly and he was our comrade during so many empty gigs. thanks kyle. then load, check, wait, and listen to gary floyds newest power-boogie band, black kali ma. it gets mighty packed and I see some familiar faces, chris and benji simmersbach and my old slov-singer, steve too. we get on stage kinda late-ish but our show is good and hard and we play til 2pm. afterwards we decide to conserve some energy and get to mikes friends, kenny and lisas' place near towns end and konk out. very nice place and good people that makes our trip so much smoother, I can't that them enough, but I try. it was a good night.
in the morning we go through their box of old minutemen and l.a. punk fliers, zines and historical archives. and how can one forget the eggs, tortilla's, salsa, mozarella and avocado. but then it's time to go...to the gig! plying on. we pull in to town, first stop, guitar center. any port in a storm, mike needs strings and I need to get a cowbell clamp. I go to the drum sector. the clerk answers my greeting with a sneer and nod. ah, guitar center. on then to brother-in-law's II for bar-b-que. it's the best, that's all I can tell ya.
at the bottom of the hill my old compadre mario shows up after sound check, and it's great to see him. then my soul brother dan, who was the founding drummer of el grupo sexo, a band I played in "back in the day". in fact, sexo opened for the minutemen back then at the great safari sams in huntington beach, and that's where I first met watt and d. boon, though briefly. I played tenor sax in the horn section along with tony atherton, the alto player from bazooka.
and then another treat, soul sister patricia makes the scene. great to see you, trish! then brother kevin. I feel great with so many friends there.
the place is packed. the first band is really good, and so is the second, black calamari. our set list starts out swingin' hard, going for the knockout. and I feel like I showed up for training camp out of shape, so my arms are rubber and I'm breathing like I just ran a 10k. but hell, we're mike watt and the pair of pliers, so you don't let up.
and we punch it out, toe to toe with rust, kinks and physical exhaustion. the corresponding part of this social event, the audience, is with us, so it's a gas. by the time I get to the sax, I'm searching for every molecule of air I can scrape from my burning lungs to blow into the link conduit to my horn. but I love it like I can't describe, so the work gets done. great gig, I'd say.
I pop early and after a scrub in the tub, I'm out walking around concepcion's neighborhood. when I get back she gets out a book of all these old minutemen flyers I made back then and all kinds of pictures and stuff. she has a cassette she recorded of a party we had for the husker du cats at cabrillo beach in pedro. it's trippy hearing d. boon's voice on the tape - it's like he can almost leap right into the room from the sound. it kind of freaks me so I start working w/the 'puter, getting it ready for emailing out of town for use on this tour. lots of thoughts run through me head hearing this. damn, you try so hard to be in the moment and the now but stuff can still yank you back, especially when you're not expecting it. weird how the circumstances of things can have their way in shaping your moods. it almost gets too much.
brian calls and the t-shirts that missed us yesterday (fed-ex fuck up) are now here so concepcion will come to show in s.f. w/them. I thank her big time for that and the old memories. we roll on to the bay. tonight we play the _bottom of the hill_ on portero hill.
the first thing we do when we hit the town is get some bass strings. then it's over to _brother inlaw's #2_, the best q pad I've tasted in this land (bar-b-q). it's just a couple blocks down from the church of st. john coltrane on divisidero. I love the chow at that pad. vince and tom do too. we head over to the club and I have to do an interview w/a cat named attila who's a very interesting guy. trouble w/his machine though so the spiel is only for the benefit of his brain and we'll have to do it later on the radio for everyone else. attila's a few years older than me so it's a trip relating to him my endeavor. I also talk w/mat, a cat younger than me and that's a trip too cuz it's like age means nothing but circumstance w/folks w/open minds. they both ask stuff that's not cliche but happening and the perfect springboard to get me going. attila wants to know why I wear flannel, mat wants to know about gumby (the real gumby, not the saturday night live skecth) - I feel like grout, sticking the tiles together. this is great, this is vital. this is in the moment, this is real. I feel very much awake and alive. attila gives me his flannel, a pendleton from a dead brother. damn.
a good buddy from pedro who moved up to s.f. named lisa and her boyfriend kenny and their pal ross take me to chow after. pasta is good gig chow. I love listening to these folks talk, there as sharp as razors and observe a bunch and have both opinions and open minds. I'm always learning around them. I do have to do my nap though so I can wail my most so it's back to the boat (van). the opening band is the _hell worms_, who are playing their last show tonight. it's a trip cuz the played their first gig w/me at the same pad! they used to be called _victim's family_ and they tell me they're going to change their name back to that. anyway, I dug their set and gary floyd came on next w/his band. this man is quite a singer, the best. I'm into it. always loved his old band, _the dicks_ and sure love them songs like "shit on me" and stuff like that. they hand the stage over to us and then it's the second gig ever for the _pair of pliers_ and I'm into it. the set's got good dynamics and I pull together tight w/my guys. sure, there's clams but not as many as last night and the feel is mostly happening so watt's happy. the gig's way over sell out and the feel from the crowd is way inspiring, even though we're going on late (like fortyfive minutes late - arrrgggggghhhhh! on a work night too). we play "the glory of man," an old minutemen song I haven't played in fifteen years in honor of the man and I can almost feel the curl of the puff. a good gig. I thank the boss ramona much for having us and how I dig her pad. mainly I play _slim's_ when I'm in this town and dawn (who books it) even came by before soundcheck to visit me - she's the best - w/some incredible news. she says mr. zorn from nyc wants to play w/me and my jaw drops. hell yeah, I say - hell yeah! there's a bowl full of ideas ready to get tossed.
we load it up go to lisa and kenny's to konk. I have some persecution dreams I usually have in the first week of any tour but for some reason they seeme tempered by the happening folks I've been w/today.
thursday, september 23 - chico, ca
tour is officially under way and our system is starting to find a groove. it's soon 10:30 and time to play. the sound is funky and the stage setup is sort of weird but we push through and have a good time playing for some real cool folks that come out on school night, I appreciate the kind responses.
after leaving the club we drive a little ways out to a friend of vinces house where he has food and beds set up for our tierd souls, righteous.
sound check at the brickworks. not the best acoustics, but that's the way it goes, eh? my friend joey of the miracle couple joey and chrissie (now it's a power trio with their new baby hailey...sp?) shows up and I go to j and c's pad for some bbq chicken, smoked salmon (that joe caught) and a nap. then to the gig. the sonic challenge is one to wrassle with, but that's our job, so we do our job. winded, winded...need to catch up on sleep. joey's friends john and dave are there at the gig too. I meet some bazooka fans, and that makes me feel good.
the mw and the pliers get better each time. mike directs us with gestures and some words on stage on some of the subtleties and not so subtleties of the music; tempo, volume, density, intensity, etc. it's a roller coaster of dynamics and it's getting more and more supple. if the curve stays this way, we're in good shape. it's fun so far.
last cali gig for this tour until the end. in the fall I like to do the tour clockwise, starting on the west coast, going up north then across the rockies, the plains, the midwest and then to the east coast. next the south, southwest and finally back to so cal. this way you can run from the winter that's coming up fast. I've only played chico once since the fIREHOSE days and the same pad who had me last time, _the brick works_ is having me back. it's a hard room to work cuz it's actually a disco w/two levels but I try not to have any attitude and try my best wherever I'm at. the boss here is justin and he gives me quite a pep talk when we get done. I tell him I'm sorry sorry there's like a hundred folks and it's a cave but he says some things that really touched me and made me think about all the years of touring and why it's worth it. I have down inside a commitment that I hold close and dear but to hear someone relate on that kind of level is something special. justin made me think of d. boon and why I started playing in the first place. this was the boss, the cat who had me over to drum up some business and he wasn't talking about business but about why he wanted he me there playing so play I will, or rather wrestle it up like a motherfucker like my life depends on it cuz maybe it does.
I should talk about the gig. it was rough w/the acoustics really bad. more clams than last night but it's understandable, it was hard to communicate and get the rapport going w/my team on stage but we soldiered through and the cats in the crowd gave us support on every tune. I was proud of tom and vince. I blew the biggest clam probably and it was at the end of the first song! I thought a second and then pulled it together inside and said "watt, fuckin' focus!" it was quite a challenge. even at soundcheck. I smoked both tweeters w/some strange feedback accidently. got to disconnect them tomorrow. I think the l-pads burned up and maybe the tweeters are ok but the stink from the burning was pretty bad. stupid watt, had the high end cranked and walked up too close to the cabinets. I gotta keep focus. the error margin is pretty tiny when you're on tour. I gotta get it together. on the other hand, I don't use the tweeters much anyways. remember, it's called bass.
vince's buddy joe comes and brings us to his pad after the gig. he's a great guy, a teacher at a charter school who had me talk to his class of sixth graders last time I was in town. I told them not to be scared of your own forms of expressions and if don't be scared if the numbers aren't always w/you. don't ever lose the child mind to be curious and explore. joe smoked some salmon he caught for us and made some chicken and salad and all kinds of good shit to chow on. we had some good raps at his pad about the current state of affairs and I was all ears to his point of view. he's in the trenches w/the kids, the future. and he's not talking about fear but hope. this gets watt to thinking. much respect to you joe. too bad we had to leave early to get to eugene the next morning. for sure I'll talk to your next class when I'm in town again.
friday, september 24 - eugene, or
in the morning we have salmon and eggs prepared and we drive up the cascades towards eugene. we arrive after seven hours of road and we meet up with a couple cool guys we had met in chico, jonathan and pete, who are making a trip through the west via the twin cities. it's nice to see their familiar faces. the wow hall is a great old comunity center that the locals are using for gigs, kind of a gymnasium vibe.
the crowd starts to grow and when it's our turn we wrestle the boomy sound of the room even with the good help from the sound dudes, and with some difficulty hearing one another we rock hard and finish with dignity. each gig is another learning experience and this is no excetion. we continue.
the house we get to stay at is a nice old victorian with several roomates, but the floor provides for us an accomodating sleeping surface which is always greatly appreciated. thanks erik and nichole and ?.
wow hall. I call my friend paul hobbes but get the machine. next time I'll give more notice, paul, but it's been hectic.
I did two three-week tours with slackjaw blues, two weeks apart two weeks before we left for this tour (does that make sense?) and getting everything together with practice and in-town gigs just wasn't easy. I play sax, blues harp and flute in sjb. yo compadres de sjb. hi linda.
I've been playing much more of my horns than I have been drums in the last couple years, so getting in shape for watt and pair 'o was an intense short burst. but watt's training camp is geared for fast efficient work, so it got done. but you can't substitute for sustained playing over time, especially with a physical instrument like the drums, so I'm building strength as we go.
wow hall is a big old place and we're on a cake-like stage away from the wall, so the sound gets sucked up up and away. for the first time it's hard to hear mike and tom, so things are a little confused at times. and I'm still forgetting things here and there: splash on one? fills after two measures? gigs can erase all but the indelibly etched memories. but, I'd still say there's progress in many areas. and there are great moments. tom and watt are great musicians with vision. if I can do my job and be the third leg of the tripod, the third point of the triangle, then it will be good. it feels good. it is a challenge, but I like a challenge.
we crash at eugene eric's pad. I am down in the basement, which was outfitted to be a night club for awhile. the walls are black plastic, and there's a stuffed animal hanging by the neck from the ceiling. the floor is cement. there is chain link fence strung ominously across part of the room. do I have to say like a dungeon? but it's quiet and I sleep well on the double mattress down there. thanks, eric.
I pop early and head out for a walk. last bike ride was tuesday morning and I ain't got the bike to peddal so it's to the hoofs for a walk. there's this big park by joe's pad called _bidwell park_ and it's righteous to walk through. lots of levels of nature. lots of smell and bird sounds watt ain't used to. I've really learned to listen in the morning when I'm peddaling around the harbor and cliffs of my town. sounds all covered by the motor when you're in a car or when you're rapping w/your buds. ear gifts. my ears eat it up. time to get back and roll to eugene.
we pass through red bluff as we head up north and I feel some ghosts. shake it off and keep driving. rolling, rolling, rolling. reading, shasta, weed, yreka and then we're out of cali and into oregon. I'm a little tired and hand the wheel over to vince. he says the boat handles well. good man, vince.
tonight we're at the w.o.w. hall which stands for the "woodmen of the world." it's not fully a club but kind of like a community center and I dig it. it was built in the thirties. the folks here are top shelf. allison runs the gigs and does a good job. I've always enjoyed playing here. the opening band is _marigold_ and they got some real nice cats in the band and we have some spiel in the band room. they're going on their first tour soon and I think back to my first tour w/us (minutemen) and black flag in the same van (ten of us) and what a mindblow that was. it was an experience I would never trade and I wish theses young cats good luck and smooth seas.
the sound can be a little tough in this pad on stage cuz there's no back or sides to it, sort of like coming out of a cake and it's quite a test for us. kind of compounding the problem is the fact that my essential brother steve reed can't be w/me this tour so we're using the house cats in each pad to do the sound. this is as tough for them as for us, seeing they don't even know what we're going to play and man, are there dynamics in a watt set! big, big loundness and small, small tinyness. I try to use the whole spectrum to get my point across. it's all vocabulary and a hole put in the right place can be just as loud as a huge giant bam. so anyway, the shit can be a real test and I could tell vince was really getting the challenge tonight. still dug the gig though. I'm getting a little braver and looking out into the crowd more and I could see them connecting w/the wrestlin', both w/the bass and w/the ensemble. I couldn't thank them more. much gratitude for you, eugene from watt.
we pack up and this cat who came to my last gig in town, erik, asks if we want to konk at his pad and we accept w/much thanks. before sueno however, he wants me to go to his bud caleb's pad where's this party is going on and play some stuff on his bass. before going, I ask caleb about this anarchist scene in eugene I've been reading about. he told me about the riot in june and how him and erik just happened to be where the march was going when the police moved in and erik got hit w/a tear gas canister that was fired at him and it exploded in caleb's face. he also got pepper sprayed. damn. we both agreed the march might've played right into the cop's hands by getting violent and breaking store windows cuz now the business people got all scared and are probably willing to give el hombre even more money for more weapons and infiltration hustles. what really has to change is folk's minds and that's more about ideas anyway. I told him I dug the fact these kids did though want to bring up important issues that most in this land are even afraid to mutter, let alone address. he told me about the world trade organization is going to meet soon in seattle and there was going to be some rousing there. gotta do more than be targets for batons and tear gas. we need to get the gears in the minds grinding on real breakthroughs and that's one thing the cops can't so easily conquer, good ideas that make sense even if it's a hell to get it rolling. I told him to read some emma goldman. sure, she was writing some eighty or ninety years ago but her insights and observations can help and maybe even inspire. she did live one hell of a life. he says something pretty interesting, he tells me he wonders about some in this movement, are they in it for a fashion or are they really on board for change? ha! the age old question but it's still a good question I tell him and marvel how much some shit does stay the same. I say hold fast though cuz if you really got the fire in your heart, no one can put it out. in fact maybe it can spread. this is where hope can thrive so you can knock down the berlin walls in your own head. I think it's a big reason why this day and age needs more vital art and expression than ever. just like in my old days when pettibon lit the bulb in watt's head.
after that good spiel, we head over and jam in his room at the party pad. he plays some drums while I work his bass and some cat named topper comes down and starts doing the hand drum thing. lots of hippies in eugene but that doesn't mean they're all old. the party upstairs is a trip. folks are dressed up in black like a hollywood party out here in the woods. even some w/trenchcoats! no one's hardly talking though and pretty much no notions or ideas are flowing, period. reminds me of being at a pedro party in the seventies on that level. sure, it's the marilyn manson look rather than the jimmy buffet one but the bottom line seems about the same. I thank caleb for the talk we had earlier and the jam but I gotta bail and konk. I think eugene is a town w/a lot of different things going like most pads and it can't really be figured by just one night of visiting. I hope I don't sound too negative. it was nice for those folks to have me over and least no one was aggressive and wanted to attack me. I do believe these are changing times though and something's gonna come down. not just in eugene either.
saturday, september 25 - seattle, wa
our drive is filled with silliness mostly as a result of cabin fever, hence the farm-boy myth is born (nuff said). when we arrive in seattle we go dirrectly to the crocodile cafe and settle in for some of the fine seattle cuisine that I remember from the other times I had played there with the red krayola and overpass. the fish and chips are completely satisfying.
the club gets packed by 10pm but we don't get on stage til much later, but people stay and we get to play to lots of cool people. some friends of mike's are present and offer a secure pad for the night and later I see sandy glaze and we catch on a lot of time. after the gig we head to barretts' place which is a beautiful craftsman house designed by an asian architect and is purely a great place to be after a noisey club. barrett is a real interesting guy and very gracious to accommodate us, thanks mr.b. I hope to meet you again sometime.
watt and tom are launching into the van jokes...i won't disclose any of them yet. I'm sure they'll work their way in soon enough. you may have heard them from one of the other cats already. but they bust me up. I can't get a gag in edgewise because these guys have it going like automatic weapons. automatic weapons of comedy. sure, sure. well, you get the point.
the croc...a cool club, good food. red beans and rice with andouille sausage for me, by golly. watt points out a hip record store on the corner. I go in and it's $60 gone. got nel's "chest", some h. threadgill, a cool johnny griffin cd with an andy warhol cover, some roscoe mitchell and even a lil' debussy. don't he have good taste, now martha, come have a look-see at what he wrote. it's nervous time at the forum - there are some great seattle musicians in the audience. I try not to let it mind-you-know-what me but it ain't easy. the place is jam packed. it's a good show, "best played yet" says watt. tom is jumping around and using his little noisemaker surrepticiously on the strings and pickups and I can hear myself sing igor and feel pretty good about it. we go to watt's amigo barrett's pad to crash. his music room includes bass marimba's and so many mind-blowing percussion instruments, acoustic bass, etc., it's exciting. great guy, full of life. god bless ya, lad. tom is blowing out the jokes and a surreal monologue that loops back on itself like burroughs and has my exhausted supine-on-the-hardwood-floor ass cracking up. also, louise, who is a friend of barrett's - she's busting up to toms gag world. before sleep I lock myself out of the house and have to go around the side yard and tap on the downstairs window to be let back in...this is becoming the heart of darkness...what next...clowns stare me down...owls gnaw my eyes...the snow knocks back my every step. well, maybe it's not all that bad. we all crash among the wonderland of instruments. snares, drumsets, vibes, gongs, plastic tubes you whack with a paddle...
I pop w/the sun and get hoofing, all ready missing my bike. we're in the northwest and it's all orange sun w/no rain, what a blessing, damn. many thanks. I roust the team and we head up the I-5 for our next gig at the _crocodile cafe_ in seattle. the croc is in the part called belltown and there's some good record stores. I find the new "l.a.m.f." re-issue (now w/a gatefold w/linernotes) by johnny thunder's _heartbreakers_ (not those other ones from florida) and almost piss my pants. I dig this disk. I also find this trippy record that has a bunch of songs by _the screamers_, the first punk band I used to see in hollywood back in the 70s that could sell out the whisky. they were one fucking good band. they never released a record ever. this was back when punk wasn't a sound but an attitude and their approach was much different than what gets called or sold as "punk" now. it was not about conforming to one fast guitar sound w/oompah drums. in fact, they didn't even have a guitarist! just a singer, synth, fender rhodes and a drummer who played along side a rhythm machine. they were wild and I can't wait to get back and hear this stuff, it's been more than twenty years!
time to get back to the boat and konk. I'm tired. I'm out for almost four hours and wake just in time for showtime. krist is here as is ed and beth. sandy from the old sst days is here too. good to see everyone. I miss both opening bands but one cat from one of them introduces himself to me, his name is "mike watt," what a trip. he says the band jokes about it all the time. I shake his hand, grab the bag of shirts and my bass and hit the stage. over five hundred folks in the room and we have a good gig, the best of the tour so far playing-wise. of course the listeners in all the towns have been great but us as a unit are still getting it together. both tom and vince are great. it's a treat watching tom on stage when he dances. I must watch my team like eighty percent of the time cuz when I look out at the folks, I lose focus and start fucking up the parts, lose time, forget spiel, etc... that's also the reason I have set up the way we do on stage: real tight like we were on the bow of a boat or in the practice pad. from my experience w/helping the _porno for pyros_ cats, I have learned to dig eye contact and in fact have come to rely on it. I dig it.
we get done and guess who's here? barrett, who plays drums w/the _screaming trees_ among his many music adventures. he asks us to stay over his pad in the phinney ridge area of town and we gratefully accept. we pack up and follow him in his truck after I thank the boss, christine, for having me play the croc once again. all the cats there get my warmest thanks for being happening and we bail happy. krist wants to come to pedro in nov or dec, that'd be great (he lived there a bunch of years as a kid). he's be going through some heavy times and it'd be good for him to get out.
barrett's pad was built in the twenties and is something else. not that big but really together. lots and lots of drum stuff is all over (like perk's pad) and he's got some righteous books too. he takes me down into the basement where he's got all kinds of instruments and a small studio and I just sit there on the rug while he runs through all these sounds. gongs, marimbas, drums, bells, and lots of stuff I can't remember their names get played by him for me and really put my mind in trippin state. organic w/a roundness and warmth, each piece has it's own world and personality. different scales, notes, sounds - I forget where I'm from and just start swimming in it. it's quite an experience. I thank him much. I want to konk here on this deck tonight and float w/the harmonics that are still ringing in the room. I take my blankey and curl cat-like and konk and dream trippy dreams driven by those sounds. one of the bells he was playing spun so there was a stereo effect like it was a piece of floss going through my ears cleaning my brain. it followed me all through my konk. what a mind blow. thanks barrett.
sunday, september 26 - vancouver, bc, canada
we hit the border and have a smooth entrance into canada. the starfish room is nice big space that I have played twice before with the red krayola, and the soundlady carrita (sp?) is a really helpful person to have on stage. the time passes quickly and vince and I sawnter down the street after soundcheck to subeez for some great food and wine, unfortunately I am starting to feel a cold coming on, damn.
the opening group, the liars are some real cool locals and the gig is a good time regardless of my sickness. my friend allison shows up and we talk a bit but it's all kind of cut short since we are shacking up on the u.s. side of the border and have to got on the road soon after the show. the re-entrance into our homeland turns out to be far more of a lame experience but we survive their thinly veiled interogation and hit the sack by 1am. whew.
we get up and eat at a mom n pop diner recommended by barrett. a good start for the day ahead. we drive to the border. the canadian border personnel are efficient and we luck-out with no delay. we cruise into victoria with beautiful weather showing off the beautiful harbor town. the buildings glisten in the golden light of late afternoon. we load into the croc and get started with the sound check business. corita is our capable and friendly sound-person. she is so relaxed and personable that load in and sound check are like hanging-out with friends. we meet our co-workers, the liars, who are the only other band on the bill. good lads all, very funny. tom and I go over to a restaurant he's familiar with from prior tour and the food is good. I have seafood gumbo and it's tasty and doesn't cost too much. there are paintings on the walls, there is sculpture on the floor and james brown on the speakers.
the liars are a good solid band; more sonics influence here too. thanks, sonics, for spreading your mindspheres around...the more the better, i say. and there was more to the liars than a single influence indeed. and they cracked us up in the friendly, sharp and rarely-self-important way that canadians I've met have. hope to run into you guys again.
it's a good gig for us, less clams and more exuberence in the right parts. the grooves are getting better, I'd say.
on the way back we get a pretty hard-nosed american border guard. we're fellow americans returning late at night after working over the border. you'd think that along with the necessary precautions and protocol she had to follow we could maybe get a "welcome back, fellows" or something, but instead the attitude was more like "what the hell do you guys think you're getting away with." there were some other copster style shenanigans but we finally get out of there. don't these people know we just want to get back to the crash pad for some needed sleep before the next days travels?
I pop w/the sun and start hoofing around the neighborhood. boy, have we been blessed this beginning of the tour w/the happening weather. no sweaty, no freeze, no clouds, no rain - many, many thanks. like a sailor, when you're on a tour like mine, you're always watching the skies. I get back from my hoofing and the team is up and barrett tells us to eat at this chow pad that is good. we get there and chow and yep, it's good. being in seattle, I get something called "the sounder" which is salmon in an omlette and the shit is great! different from eating salmon in pedro. we head up the I-5 once more (last time north) to get a room in bellingham, a town near the border where we can drop the shirts off cuz there's tariffs if you try to carry them across. our border crossing at the peace arch is very gentle and we get to the gig right on time for load in. thank you, canadian border folks. they even got me work permits for the other four canadian gigs later in the tour back east and that's a nice favor.
we're playing the _starfish room_ here in town and the boss keith here is a nice cat for us. we're playing w/this band _the liars_ that's kind of on the sonic y tip but that's hearing them through the van outside the pad cuz I need to konk before we play and their last remaining tunes serve as a alarm clock signal for konkman watt. I dig playing for the canadian cats and even though this is a light crowd (if you're going to be in this for a long time, you're gonna find lots of hills and valleys in your journey), they have a great spirit and I gather the team and we try our hardest. not as focused as last night but after thinking about it later, I think it was pretty good. these kind of gigs are what I call "character builders" cuz it takes more than just cliche reaction and tons of poses. it takes some heart and dedication. tom and vince both rise to the occasion and I'm beaming proud. thanks, men. we get done and I tell the boss we can make things more fair cuz of the cave but he says nope, he wants to pay me the whole thing. a class man. much respect. I'm think me being late w/them postcards has hurt some of these early gigs having folks know I'm coming. a lesson watt should've learned eons ago. damn, do I do stupid shit sometimes.
we talk a bit w/the opening band who are great cats and then head back for our side of the border. a hard ass has us pull the van in and pay a five dollar user fee, something I've never paid in all my days touring but hey that's what the border's about: never knowing what the fuck is going to happen. maybe she didn't like me handing her a bag of fruit we had but the sign said not to bring that kind of stuff into the country. oh well, only cost us a half an hour. the games people play, huh? back to the mo and I konk amongst the t-shirt bags on the deck, hemming in my pitching and yawing as sueno takes me once more away from the open-eye awake time.
monday, september 27 - olympia, wa
we arrive in olympia and I feel like shit. vince and I hit a local vietnamese joint and the hot sour soup breathes some life back into me. two cool bands warm up the locals even though it's a school night and the weather has become mighty brisk. it's an all ages gig and the turn out is a little thin but the people are very cool and we get a good response to our set. I don't feel to good about my playing, nothing in particular, I just have to remember that I am starting to feel very sick and my head and ears are all stuffed up. afterwards we find a motel 6 and get some needed rest and that's all I can recall at the moment.
the drive to oly is scenic: the weather couldn't be better, clear, not too hot, not too cold. mt. ranier is mind-blowing; a volcano, y' know. I hear tell she could blow any time...egad...be still, lil' vesuvio. we have time to hang out in downtown oly. it's real nice; kind of old, but with all the amenities. there's a vietnamese food place to eat at and that's a blessing. I buy a sleeping bag at a pawn shop. we've been blessed with friends pads to sleep at and my little sarape and the van-blankets don't always do the trick, so now I'm equipped.
sound check is quick. my toms have been ringing, so i've been taping them up. I don't like the sound of taped drums much, but they're ringing, so it's gotta be done.
mike goes next door for an interview and soup. tom and I head over to "the spar", a coffee/tobacco shop and bar under one roof. as we're eating the good food there, who comes out of the bar but toast (paper-tulips, ray-o-vacs, al's bar, etc...). it's great to see my great friend toast there; such a great mind-blowing surprise. she'd been in the bar having a little macanudo cigar and a beer, and she even has a cigar for me. this is a charmed trip, knock on wood.
I meet sandy and josh, friends of mike and tom's from the old days. they live in seattle now, were at the seattle gig and they've driven down to see this show. very nice people; glad I got the chance to meet them.
there are some sound snafu's but we weather them. just a couple operator errors, nothing to get shook about. all in all, it rocks pretty good. the turnout is a little on the slim side but it's the first day of school in the college town and it's a new club, so it's understandable. we rock for those in attendance and don't worry too much about those not there. let us put it in the victory column. it's a cool place with good people working there.
pop and load the shirt bags back into the van and it's south on the I-5 to olympia. I really dig playing this town. seems in all the years of touring, I managed to keep skipping this pad but now I'm gonna make sure I play every tour I can. it's the home of one of my favorite labels, _kill rock stars_ and also seems to have a genuine and inspired scene. on the way, we stop in tacoma to vist rick king at "guitar maniacs" which is a happening place for old stuff. rick ain't there but his assistant joe is and vince ends up getting an old fender tweed "harvard" amp for his harmonica. vince is very happy. I just get a strap cuz mine broke last night in 'couver. oh yeah, I forget to say that I played like the last seven or eight songs last night on a stool cuz the strap broke and I didn't want to snap the momentum of the flow. it was a trip, felt like doc watson or bob mould or someone playing acoustic guitar but here I was kicking out stooges and pop group and almost falling right off the stool! pretty funny.
the pad we're playing is one that's just being converted over from a dance club and it's called _metropolis_, construction stuff is everywhere but all the folks there are really nice and say everything will be up by show time which is exactly what happens. in the meantime, I hoof around old downtown oly, checking out the neat remnants of what was and/or is still left. I get some happening post cards from what's now a used clothes store but still sells the kill rock stars stuff. I look for the kill rock stars house but never find it. I find out later I was real near but just didn't know it. stupid fucking watt.
after soundcheck I ask tonight's boss, devin, about some soup. I think I'm really getting into soup as a good chow before gigs. he guides me to a pad a couple of doors down to a thai pad that has some righteous soup. it's got chicken and all those aromatic veggies like onions, garlic and stuff I don't the names of. lots of thai chilis too. I add a bunch more. need to sweat. then it's back to the boat for the pre-gig konk. it's good to have the boat docked right in front of the pad and once again we luck out. after some hours of sueno I hear the last of the _ruby doe_ set and then konk again, finding it now hard to remember their sound (through the walls of both the club and the boat!). it's not their fault, this bass wrestler is just tired. the next band, _the centimeters_ wake me again near the end of their set and the sound is really trippy, sort of cabaret like w/all kinds of weird stuff going on. very interesting. I get up and get out but they finish before I get to see any of it. damn. it's our turn and we set up fast.
good gig for the pliers, they play well in spite of us still working out the kinks and the clams of the set. I've had good crowds in this town the last couple of times I've played here but tonight has got to be the thinnest of the tour. that don't mean those folks that are there aren't important. in fact there's tina, tobi, billy and folks from the kill rock stars label there and I'm glad we really got a chance to blow it out of the hole for them. I really dig playing them our version of "rebel girl," a _bikini kill_ song. I give the crowd my spiel at the end about what emma goldman said about small inspired minorities like I told caleb in eugene and it's so good to talk w/them after the show. I get a copy of this great fanzine called "jigsaw" which at once makes me think of donna's own "chainsaw." it's a great mag and I'll read it later in the boat. it's gotta bunch of good stuff, even an interview w/carrie from s-k. I'm foamin' so I gotta hurry up and load up.
devin says the club is new and is going to take time to get the word around plus it's the first day of college but I tell him don't worry and cut him some slack w/the bobby deniro ($). I told him I'll be around again and can't afford to have a good man that puts on adventurous gigs in his town go out cuz of a thin show. we pack up, say bye and head for a mo-six, the first one for this "searchin' the shed for pliers" tour. it's only next door in tumwater so after a tiny ride, we stop and then konk but not after me and vince have an hour and a half rap about the cramps I get in the bottom of my feet after gigs. he brings up some good points.
this page created 30 sep 99