tuesday, october 5 - st. louis, mo
the side door is a little alterno-bar in the industrial sector of st. lou. the place is also a fine restaraunt and we get some fine feeding, but the highlight for sure is to see spot play before us. it's great to see him again, and he is doing real well and blazing on banjo and flat picking guitar. we will catch up with him again when we pass through his town in austin texas.
we slept on the floor in dotties dorm, she's an email correspondant of mikes and we talk in the morning with her and her bassist rachel, their band chemical x was supposed to be on the bill also but the club screwed denied it. it's lame when young bands get the scissors from promoters and we felt bad about it but they seem to have something good going and I think just enough gall too. so next time for sure. over.
wake up, walk, eat some great chow kevin prepared! eggs, hash browns, bacon, french bread, coffee and oj. thank you kevin. and we're off to old st. lou. st. louis appears to be a combination of great old buildings, industrial zones and blighted residential and commercial zones. the club, the side door, is a somewhat abandoned old business district that appears to be trying to turn itself into a hipyup hangzone. currently, though, it ain't the kind of hood you want to wander aimlessly around in by night. it's about 20 blocks west of the missouri river and the great welcome arch.
the pre-gig food is good - the club is a rock room attached to a contemporary upscale eatery, each with it's own vibe. along with the post modern chicken burritos comes some homeade tortilla chips and homeade salsa that is done right - plenty of fresh chopped jalapeno and it's all in this red picante sauce base that is fiery on it's own.
we do sound check with jimmy, who was sound man for an 80's vintage of steppenwolf. a steppenwolf album is one of the first ones I owned, by the way. he is all pro, but with a style of easy joking and conversation that makes you feel like you're at a bar-b-que in his backyard.
the new thumpier heads on my toms are breaking in and I'm getting to like their sound and feel a lot.
derek, the barman, comes in as we relax after sound check. he's friendly and we sit and rap for awhile. he fills tom and I in on the club sitch and talks about his job in the day teaching 8th grade and how challenging it is - "every hour", he says, "there's some event or crisis to deal with". his cousin george comes in later and lets me know that whatever we want at the bar he'll get. for me it's water and oj (usually I et grapefruit but oj'll do just fine).
there's a big band room type area upstairs from the chow part of the pad, so I go in there to do my warm up, study the tapes, notes routine. there are two couches and tom is crashed on one. it looks like a good idea so I stretch out on the other one and I'm fast asleep. I wake up alone in there and look at my watch - shit, spot's probably on (our amigo spot is opening the show). I run down the stairs and make my way to sit in front of the stage on the floor. there's tom. watt's further back in the room.
spot is way on. when I get there he's playing a jazz blues on the guiter with great voice leading in the quick changes and melodic soloing with abundant tone. spot on as it were. then it's the banjo with some wit over the mic, then the twelve string. shit, did I miss the vidola?
time for us to play. there is a wooden plank hanging from the monitor board on the stage part that has a carved and stained message to those performers ready to toil under the hot lights. it reads: "blow it out your ass". according to jimmy, the prior monitor man whose sign it was would respond to requests such as "can we get more vocal in the monitor" by pointing down at the sign. a real people-person.
we do our ratt medley and follow with our fleetwood mac encore. thank god there were ample fire extinguishers when the pyrotechnics got out of control. I'm still chafing from my harness.
after the show we are put up by dottie and rachel from chemical-x, a band that was supposed to open for us but that got cut out by some dubious econo-political shift. reportedly, the booker bailed on having them play apparently nervous over the chances of success for the show.
I don't know how old dot and rach are, but they seemed very young to this old fellow embarking on his fifth decade upon this punished planet. they seemed like 19 or 20 but I guess must have been of legal boozin' age since they were in the club. they were very quiet as we old weirdo's piled in dot's cozy little pad, set up our sleeping bags on the floor and couch and maintained our psycho-scatalogical stream-of-unconsciousness.
it takes a lot of guts and good will, I think, to do what they did - young women starting a band, working hard to get a good gig, putting up old grizzled fucks like ourselves on faith that we'd be reasonable guests (we are). so, it's a drag that they got foisted out of a gig. chemical x, spot, then watt (and we the pliers) would have been a good bill. their tape sounded very good. how do these youngsters make such good music?
pop and head for the head cuz kevin's got this big, long tub. this is great for watt to soak his aching bones. what a gift. I lay in the hot tub until my body prunes up and then finally raise myself up and out. whoa, big headrush. kevin's making breakfast in the kitchen but no gut-stuffed stuff, maybe kevin's hoarding the rest?! I joke. great chow from kevin w/tons of it, vince is shovelling and so is watt. it was kevin's birthday last night and he's happy for the celebration. sitting in his kitchen are six thrity packs of busch his buds got him. damn, don't drown, kevin.
we say bye and head east, still on the I-70. just past missouri, el hombre pulls us over. he was sitting on the shoulder and I went a little over to give him some room. he says this is why he put on the lights, thought I was taking up two lanes. I do have cali plates in the middle of missouri. he trips on the bullet hole in the back hatch of the boat. I tell him I'm from pedro. he asks me "aren't there enough gigs in california?" I say I like to tour the land, it's my living. he says ok, and lets us get down the road w/out a ticket. thank you officer.
this is my third st. louis gig in a row at a pad called _the side door_ and it's in the downtown. pretty much blight from folks neglecting their inner city, same as in almost any big town in this country. it's a fucking shame. damn. this pad has new owners now, I miss the old one, pablo, but derrick (yet another teacher - eighth grade) is still there and I dig him. the new owners are cooks (chefs?) and don't know music and the rumor is they want top forty if this stuff bombs. the booker lisa seems scared. I bring her in a good crowd so maybe they'll hang on a little longer. my old buddy from the sst days, spot, opens the show up w/some fucking great guitar and banjo playing. wow, am I fired up and ready to go! the set is really happening and we more than recover from the tough show we did last night in lawrence. jimmy, the soundman is a big help and does us up good, so happeing when the cats are into your trip. he came out of retirement to do the gig, used to do steppenwolf in the late 70s, early 80s. tom and vince click good w/the tuneage and I'm a happy man. still some clams but a great feel. thanks to the crowd too. there is this one cat though that is totally bent on getting me to do "the bluejackets' manual" but I tell him I can't cuz I put the opera to bed. he's sad about this genuinely and I don't think he understands it was a part of a whole piece. damn, I hate to dissapoint him. he must think I'm a spacecase. maybe he's right.
some trippy political observations: the local weekly mag has been bought out by some media company who's been buying these things all over the country and the music column cat was fired for writing that was "too local." what fucking bullshit. I hope I don't have to point out the nightmare going on here and other pads. just like them fucking track homes and strip malls. also, I asked for a local band, _chemical x_ to open the gig and they got told some fucked things. one thing a cat who's been around a long time can do is help up new folks and let them get heard. that's what _black flag_ and _rem_ did for us minutemen and I want to keep that tradition alive.
anyway, we thank everyone and dottie has us over to konk. we bring spot too. laying there on the rug reminds us of the old days and we talk for a while about what's happened w/everyone, you know, catching up. so good to be w/spot here and these pair of pliers. I think to myself I'm a lucky man and konk happy.
wednesday, october 6 - champaign, il
we drive towards illinois and the highdive and a gig with madder rose. we are having incredible luck with the weather and trip is clear as a bell. the time ticks by and the crowd is slowly appearing during m.r.'s set which is very good and I find out it's also the singer mary's birthday. we play and overcome some onstage problems and finish off with a good set too.
well after the show we set off to another place to settle in for the night. jason and miguel have a nice loft nearby.
up and out. fairwell to fellow traveler spot; the girls drive ahead of us to see us to the highway. rachel, who has been so quiet, turns around from the passenger seat of their car and waves farewell with a big smile on her face. nice people.
we drive to champaign. on the way we stop for a killing breakfast. I have 2 eggs poached, hash browns, grits, fruit compote, biscuits and gravy and it's all great. gravy at breakfast pads is usually white flavorless grease, but this gravy it the shit. watt gets pork chops and eggs and from the looks of his, I wish I had. tom got pancakes and eggs. you can't eat like this all the time on the road or you'll blow up to thousands of pounds and get sluggish and get heart attacks, strokes, etc., but there are times when you know to order up and damn the torpedoes. this was one of them.
we pull into town pretty early, so I buy some kick-heads that I'm happier with than my old set-up once I put them on at the club, which is born out at sound checkums.
madder rose, who is the other band on the bill, comes in. bazooka played a gig with them in '93, in minneapolis, I think. they are very intellegent personable people and are a good band with great tunes. mary sings cool legato vocals and a great relaxed velvets and even sticky fingers stones type hypnotic medium tempo grooves. I hope they won't hunt me down and kill me for my possibly square comparisons. see you guys down the road, hopefully. happy birthday mary.
our gig is tough - there aren't that many people there for a mike show. I heave a couple clams at my comrades and throw a couple sticks (my ride cymbal has been grabbing them and spitting them out - it is hovering too close to my floor tom). nonetheless, I think, the curve is still positive.
we stay at jason's loft, a ridiculously huge space downtown done up as hip as it gets and at a rent to he and is roomates that would just barely move one into a cardboard box under the freeway in l.a.
I find a book on joan miro, who is one of my favorites and get into photo's of his paintings. there are excerpts from letter of his as well. here's one I dig: "I much prefer a man who fails as he is searching, who beats his head against the wall, to one who calmly proceeds to do what others have done by sweating blood".
boy, did I have a heavy dream last night. much, much persecution. seems like someone was trying to get the boat. seems like I had to fight someone in the street for her. conflict, anger, confrontation, etc... over and over, I kept reliving this belig (belligerent) shit where there was no rational dialog, just hate and fighting. usually I get dreams like this in the first week and my guess it's from beginning-of-tour-insecurity but this is now the third week. maybe the visit w/the missouri hombre? must've been, damn but why? stuff imbeds itself in your mind and then resurfaces for the craziest reasons. fears. I kept wanting to pop and escape from the torment but couldn't. damn. over and over, the faceless enemy fighting me for the boat. me, swinging as hard as I could and still not believing why I had to do this. of course, I had to protect the boat. of course, the boat is the center of my universe on tour. I love the boat. I owe the boat. so weird, so strange. daylight finally brings the pop I've been waiting for and I'm sweating. I feel the rug to make sure of firmament, to touch something solid and be sure, this fucking nightmare really had a grip on me. good to see spot smiling over there as he rousts himself up. quick shower and we're ready to bail.
dotty plays us her and her buddy rachel's practice tape and it's happening. tom really gets into talking about the sounds and guitar stuff and him and spot spiel for a while. we thank her and she leads us to the I-70 for our next drive: clear across illinois to play in champaign. I've played this town many times, it's a college town and I've had some great gigs there. it is kind of squarejohn town though in that "varsity blue" kind of vein (I know, that's about high school but it ain't quite a stretch, believe me). last couple of times I was at the _blind pig_ but that's over now due to some new owners who alienated their workers, who inturn, bolted. this time I'm at a new pad called the _highdive_ which used to be a porno theatre. nice old tin plates on the ceiling. next door at some kind of college bar I see some x-radio types through the window. you know, the x-crement "alternative" top forty stations. funny when they would talk to me when I made that song w/ed. that song was directed totally at the mentality that's propagated at those "alternative" stations where's there's tons of commercials and no variety in the programming but lots of fake hipness and tons of so-called cool. I just heard of a merger this week that puts nine hundred radio stations under one owner. isn't this great? and we're still having to fight to get low power fm that's community based licensed by the fcc (check http://www.lowpowerradio.org). and who's the biggest enemy, the government? try these so-called "totally raw, extreme, on the edge, new, modern" rock crap fake-rebel ear stuffer shit packer/seller chain store strip mall butt-sauce mills. competition or an open forum for voices is not in their scheme. a cat from the local station, _weft_ which is community based and started by progressives during the hippie times comes by the venue to interview me. I let him know about my views on this stuff. he asks what gets me going and I tell them it's shit like this, brittle, phony, plastic. we have a good spiel and he asks me to come by the station tomorrow. you know that I will.
I hit the boat for a konk. on the way, my old bud kemp drives up in his van. he's from southern indiana and always comes to see me whenever he can even though I never play his town. he always makes the drive. good man. good to see him. the konk is long and hard, no nightmares like last night. good, I'm grateful. I wake just in time to hear the last song by the opening band, _madder rose_ who I played w/last maybe six years ago in south dakota. they're from new york city and really nice folks. it's the singer mary's birthday and I'm kind of bumming that there's hardly anyone up front for them. in fact, this gig is one of them caves you have time to time. maybe a hundred folks tops. the light gig makes for a challenge and has to be lame for the boss, ward, but there's hills and valleys in this long bass wrestling journey. there's a good feel from the crowd though and we give it our all. no poseurs out in this audience. it's a difficult gig but we do well though tom thinks it's his worst gig ever. I tell him not to worry, I thought he did great. a waitress from another pad named wendy comes up and curses the town for not supporting me enough. she says that wouldn't happen in tennessee, where she's from. I have to smile. it can happen anywhere, just as the packed gigs can too. a cat named jason talks w/me and invites us to stay at his pad downtown. we pack up and thank everyone and only have to go a couple of blocks to his pad, a renovated loft space above some store fronts. like a fucking idiot, I leave the brown thunderbird I'm bringing for tim to paint all yellow (the "banana plower") on the roof as we drive off. when we park, I see it on the roof and give big thanks it didn't come flying off. what a fucking cerrote I am, gotta get more focused for load outs and shit like that, idiot watt.
jason's pad is very manhattan style w/one big space and walls built by him and his room mates (miguel and john) for rooms. big and roomy w/old brick all around. a huge heater hangs from the ceiling looking like a giant shaft. man, does that thing roar when they turn it on! as it flames to life, the light in watt's eyes slowly fade and though I can still hear voices, they fade as the great blankey of sueno covers me w/konking.
thursday, october 7 - madison, wi
in the morning vince and I go downstairs to a coffee joint that had some ceramic tile that my wife diana had made, man what a coinincidence. life seems to become more and more connected in every way.
the club here is a cool little western bar in a block of german restaurants and river front bars. we load and spend some time talking with the locals and after a while a tour friend of mikes named demos shows up with a full on bbq feast complete with corn on the cob and tabuleh salad and we go at it like dogs.
vince and I take a short walk down to the river and when we gat back to the club we are met by joe brewer and after a long interesting conversation about bikes and bee gloves I dicscover that he's jack brewers cousin. I end up talking with joe til the first band hum machine starts up, but the club is so packed that I head down stairs to to avoid getting too blown out before our turn. after their set we make a quick transition and play hard and make the people scream a little bit. it was fun but I felt a little out bcause of my persistent cold.
demos invited us back to his house to crash and I went straight to sleep...
breakfast at a cool beat coffee shop right down the stairs on the bottom floor of their building (they're on the fourth, I think). mike and toms omelettes give them digestive trouble later on, but my poached eggs, spuds and french toast (maybe the best I've ever bought) do me up right. mike and I have a habanero each. he cuts his into strips, removing the seeds, then puts them on top or mixes them in with his food whereas I hold mine by the stem and eat them like and apple in between bites of my food until they're gone. ah, diversity. I'm surprised by the pace at which we're eating these little suns. habaneros go bad quickly and when I saw how many we were given I figured we'd end up throwing some away, but that evidently will not happen. we drive to madison. when I was in madison with bazooka (the trio) in '93 we got the most aggressive and intellegent drunken-heckling I've ever heard. it was our first gig on our own after having opened five shows for firehose (I'm wearing the hose t from that tour right now) and we were excited about having done that, so we mentioned it on stage.
"name droppers", one guy yelled back. fucking madison, I love it. the onion comes from there, and we got a cool spread in it.
I buy a little bike mirror to put on my rack tom side crash cymbal stand. this allows me to see tom as well as mike while we play. my drums are set up facing mike so the bass drum kick-wind hits his leg. so most of the time I can only see tom, who is on my left, peripherally. now with this mirror I can see tom and watt at the same time. and it's most amusing for me to "check my mirror" while playing.
okayz corral, where bazooka played to the heckling before and where we're playing tonight, is packed. it's a smallish club, which I dig playing.
mikes bro in madison, demos, comes in after sound check with bar-b-que ribs, corn and falafel. it is a feast, and the sounds of gnashing and flesh rending from our table drowns out the music on the stereo. patrons and employees peer over at us as we devour the charred carcass fragments, races dripping with dark red sauce.
the gig rocks pretty good. the mirror bit cracks me up. an audience member anticipates every one of georgies fills from the glory of man and I'm glad I learned them (if a little paraphrased). the cat is enthusiastic in appreciation.
joe brewer, jack's cousin, is there, and it's great to see him. he's into riding his mountain bike on trails and just got an around town 18-speed. he gives a book of sea-going tales to mike. he is building a sculpture out of broken drumsticks, so I'll send him a bunch of mine when I get back home.
when joe rides up, he's got a small cigar in his mouth, wears an orange vest, a hat, and has stuffed big stuffed animal bees on his gloves. joe wrote a poem that is in the bazooka live CD jacket. viva joe...and viva jack and kathy while we're on the subject of brewers.
we stay at demo's comfortable rural pad and repair to the den for cuban cigars and herbology. we have to roll at 8am and it's 4am by the time we alll crash out: the herbalism sparks conversation - well, tom, who's had a relapse of his bug, crashes earlier.
pop and jason takes us downstairs and a couple doors down to "sam's" to have a morning chow. don't have to chew much on this omelette cuz there's enough lubricant cooked within. go to the boat and get some habaneros to help it along, whoa! after sliding that down, I gotta walk it off and start to hoof. come by that station, _weft_ and walk right in. they're having a pledge drive and I tell them I did a spiel w/one of their people last night. it's during a jazz show and the dj finishes some lou rawls and puts me right on the mic and on the air. he thinks I'm just a man off the street (well I am) and let's me fly. I give a big pitch for the station and community radio in general and finish w/something john coltrane said when he was asked what he was trying to do w/his music, he said: "I want to uplift people." I shake the dj's hand, head back to the boat, load the cats and we head up north to madison.
tom layton's been doing my madison shows for years and I dig him. he's again having us at _okayz corral_, where I've played many times. I tell nicole there behind the bar (a friend of spot's) hi from tupper and holly who had just moved from here to boise. holly's the same one who gave tom the charlie horses outside the nuerolux. this town has always had a good feel and besides that, it's the home of _the onion_, one of the best papers in the country. they're even online now (http://www.theonion.com) so everyone can check them out. great shit in their sheets. robin, who w/bucky pope started the _tar babies_ comes down and visits. he's the best, great bass player too. he reminds me about all those pettibons I digitized about ten years ago and put on floppies for him. he's the only other cat in the punk scene that also had an apple //gs. got to convert them babies and put them up on the hoot page. they're from the little xerox books raymond would self-publish. great stuff.
demos, a cat who's been seeing me play since the minutemen, comes by w/ribs, tabouli and corn on the cob - all cooked by him. damn, is it good! knocks me fucking out. we play the rememberin' game while I shovel. he recounts all the encounters. nice man, demos. it's great to see cats from the old days come to check up on watt. glad to know and great for the confidence, believe me. he also lived in columbus and knew ed fROMOHIO, damn! he invites us over to konk after the gig and I happily accept. the opening act is _hum machine_ but I gotta konk cuz boy, am I beat. they played w/me before but the need for z's just overwhelms me and the boat smothers me w/sueno after jumping in and sealing the hatch. I get awakened by tom's rap on the bulkhead and I grab the sack of shirts and head for the stage. the pad is jammed w/happy folks to see what I got going this time. tom and vince whup it up good. these damn earnie ball strings - I broke one last night and I knew I should've changed them all cuz that's a sign they're all gonna go - they ain't too tough. of course, I break an 'a' string in "the big bang theory" which is used pretty big time in that tune and have to improvise by just leaving shit out but keeping time while doing the spiel. boy, is that a tricky motherfucker. I somehow get through it and whip the new one on toot-sweet. over the years, I've gotten lots of practice w/that. it's a great gig though all in all and I thank the madison folks big time. much respect. end up talking w/everyone almost after the gig and shake my hand almost right off. in a way, the squeezing helps the sore joints. just not too hard a squeeze.
oh, I forgot, there's a great sticker on the p.a. speaker stage port that tom and vince really dig from a band called _chaindrive_. if you ever seen tom or vince, ask them to explain that sticker to you. you'll fully feel enlightened and I know they'll dig turning you on to the righteous imagery and meaning. close down procedures and we follow demos to his pads out in the woods. he's first generation - pop from greece and ma from germany - and he has this "bavarian room" he lets watt konk in. we have a talk about roots and puff some mota and even a monte cristo 'gar before the heavy lids sink my boat of a brain. must be four bells, whew, I finally get to stop. thanks demos.
friday, october 8 - minneapolis, mn
in the morning we had a good breakfast that demos provided and headed north again towards minneapolis, and the tour continues. our trip is a little long and the sky is a little grey but by the time we arrive in minneapolis the weather is like a summer day, we have been truly blessed. the usual routine ensues but tonight is our first night of a 9 show tour with the cleveland band, cobra verde, and I am really anxiuos to see what they're all about. after meeting them and a little more time killing time they play a really great show and I feel like we've made some great new friends. the next group is called o'jeez and also do a good job with their own pop sound, the club is crammed and I hear it's a sold out show. when we played it was a real good vibe and one of our better performances so far. a great show all the way through.
after load out we are escorted back to petes place by our friend from the chico/eugene gigs jonathan and we sit up eating peates chili and exchanging stories til 4. unfortunately we have to get up at 8 and hit the trail to chicago so sleep is nessesary, good night.
up at 7:30am, eat vegetable omelettes courtesy again of demos, great wheat toast, coffee and juice. road sustenance.
another one of mikes down pals assists the troubadors trek.
tour life is hard. it's hard to eat well. it's hard to get enough sleep. and it's hard to keep all the normal functions of the biological animal moviing, if you catch my drift. you learn to eat vegetables and fruit where and when you can, drink lots of water and take advantage of a relatively clean head when you find one. for all the difficulty of touring, it is the only way you can have certain great experiences. you play music nearly every night, and you meet people and make friends all over the country, including the very interesting cross-section of people that are your fellow musicians on the road. and you get to see your far flung friends from earlier years that have moved away from where you grew up. on to minneapolis.
gas stop: there's a small convenience store where you pay for the gas. there are two picnic tables inside where two men sit, one to each table, drinking coffee the color of cardboard, smoking and eating their donut gems - just hanging out. a poster advertises a long-range shooting-contest on some private parcel of land. there are ads for deer-dressing services. the older of the table sitters stares from under his hunters cap with fur lined ear flaps. we are entertaining him somehow...he appears transfixed, as if he has just caught site of an alien craft about to abduct him. he wears a camoflage jacket. the other guy appears to be staring off into space, but he's wearing mirror shades, so it could easily be a ruse. the smoke from his cigarette goes up then bends around him its way to the nicotine stained hanging tiles.
we get to load in, ron the sound man is there to help us. we set up and check. oh jeez show up, and jesse greene plays with them now. I met jesse when she played violin with the transcendent geraldine fibbers. jesse wails, and has quite a stage presence. dave pirner plays the drums and sings.
cobra verde show up. this is our first of several with tem. thank god they're an easy going bunch. we make friends pretty quickly. tour comrades - a great thing to have on the road...like when the fibs were on the same bill with mw and the crew...saucer for two weeks in '95.
my old buddy kris paxton shows up. I grew up playing music with kris, a wailing bass player. he, jeff currier, larry balara and I had a garage band back in high school and after that that we all sort of learned how to play in. it was a great rocking band, in my humble opinion and we were tight friends - a pack, a tribe, fighting the homogenous suburban surroundings of 70's orange county, ca. we played at house parties that got busted by police riot squads, school dances around the county and all types of odd stuff. kris now lives in minny with his wife, daughters and doggy. he's an electrical engineer. he still plays bass.
it's one of the great things about touring that I get tohang with my old buddy kris. and a fun hang it is. kris jumps on the stream of consciousness gags (although we've van-baked them into total non-sequitorial nonsense).
oh jeez plays, and I dig them quite a bit. jesse is playing guitar and sings and plays a little violin. well it's a regular size violin...you know what I mean. I'd like to hear her play more violin, but what she does in the group context sounds great. dave holds down the drums fine and of course sings great and the bass player grooves. I didn't meet the bass man.
they play a sort of cheerful distorted guitar pop that is very pleasing.
cobra verde play next. they are of a dynanmic front man school. john, the singer, reminds me of jack brewer and jim morrison a little - he dances around sort of in one spot, whips the mic stand in small arcs and barks rhythmic vocal sounds in between verses. but he's his own man - comparisons are odious.
chas plays the theremin, and it's really fun to watch. dave digs in on the bass, mark rocks the drums and frank tears riffs from his tele. they dress pretty snazzy, cool shiny shirts, velvet trousers and that kind of thing. I like it, good show. it'll be a lot of fun playing a bunchof shows with these guys.
we play a pretty ass-kicking set. the place was packed and, by golly, it rocked. we start off firing broadsides from the deck guns, then drop it down below the radar, still staying in the groove, bringing the attention of the audience (the fourth band member) to the minutae and nuance. and then crank it up we do straight to rockville, punkville and even a fly-by of jazz island, then back to the rocking, more punkery (it's really all one, but how the hell else am I going to describe it?), drop it down to quiet and then blast out. then the encore, where I get to play sax. thanks, watt, for giving me the chance to blow the horn. it felt like we were all in it together, feeding the intensity of the unbroken continuom. right on. and I'm glad my old pal kris saw this one.
afterwards, a dude comes up, shakes my hand and says he's been reading the journal and brought up my (sad sack) anxieties about clams and not doing well enough, etc., and he says (something to the effect of): "dude, don't worry, you're totally wailing up there". thanks, my friend, you don't know how much that did for my spirit.
jonathon, a drummer who was with us along with his bass-playing bud peter from chico thru seattle, was there at the gig. he and pete live in minny. I suggested he and kris jam, and hopefully they will. it's good to get the oldsters playing with "the kids". good for us, good for them. good for the aggregate.
we're on to pete's,where he's made chili with chipotle. will wonders never cease. the chili-heads among us add the habanero's and it's one mean bowl of red. there are nice people over there and we hang for awhile jawing, then crash out on the floor with sleeping bags and pillows.
demos cooks up some omelettes and we jack them up w/the habaneros john gave us in kansas. we're chowing them every morning now, can't let 'em rot! damn, do they put you in a sweat, good shit. we thank demos much and I hand the wheel over to tom cuz my hands are too sore to hold the wheel. tom pilots the boat northwest over the green hills of wisconsin into minnesota. cross the border and first it's saint paul, then minneapolis. fortune of fortunes, it's still cali weather and in the seventies w/the sun bright against blue, blue skies.
we're doing the _7th street entry_ tonight. this is a happening pad w/a righteous crew w/folks like steve mcclellen, conrad, betsy, nathan, randy and the whole bunch of them. good music folks in this town too. been that way a long time. great scene for a pedro man to come play. tonight, _cobra verde_ joins us for the next nine gigs. they're a great band from cleveland led by john who've come to help watt give it a kick in the ass where it's needed. I'm happy and proud to serve w/these cats. in the middle tonight will be _oh jeez_ who's got kraig johnson (I'm always playing w/a johnson brother band when I'm working this town), jesse green and dave pirner. it's good to see pirner again, he now lives in new orleans and flew up just for the gig. in this band he does drums and trumpet. jesse does guitar/violin and kraig finally is back on what I frist saw him on, the bass (about time, traitor!). steve takes me across the street to o'donovan's and gets me some calf liver. good chow. I meet his brother phil the biker, who thinks ted nugent or bob seeger's playing and we have some laughs. the owner is in his office so steve lets me konk on his office deck. this is right over the entry but watt can konk through anything and I'm out until gig time. damn, this is a tough gig cuz there's this one note resonating through the stage no matter what key we're playing in and it's hard as hell to do the spiel. the place is jammed and sold out though w/the spirit really way up there so fuck that technical difficulty shit and give it up for the people, watt. damn, gotta keep focus. pirner helps do "funhouse" w/us on the trumpet. we finish w/"drove up from pedro" and it's a good gig, whatever note is still ringing in my fucking head. big bear hugs to steve and I wave to him from behind the wheel of the boat.
jonathon, the cat we met in chico w/his bud pete rides w/us to the house pete's staying in. pete's made some great chili. he couldn't get into the gig cuz of the age limit - fuck those shit suckin bigoted laws! there's a bunch of folks there but I'm tired and finally am able to stop so I plop. head on the pilla, blankey wrapped around me. I thank both pete and jonathon and use this mask that fits over your eyes to block out the lights. demos gave it to me last night. I hear cameras click and people laugh but fuck it - I'm tired and it's over and I'm out.
saturday, october 9 - chicago, il
ironically tonight is also the night that the red krayola is playing in town and since I'm with watt I wont be able to play with them. but even more ironically there is an instore show in the day at a record store thats only a half a block fom the club where we will be playing and our load in time is the same as that instore performance is supposed to begin. so after the initial sound check ritual with watt and vince I run down to reckless records and join in with krayola for a spirited little pre-show medley of old and new tunes. mayo and sandy came in from l.a. and david grubbs flew in from n.y. and john mcentire was in town and played drum pads. we had a fun time together and I was glad to have the chance to be part of their chicago show at least on that level. again ironically tonight the red krayola show is at the exact same time as our show only at a different club thats just blocks away. very strange.
well the gig is started with a great set from our boys cobra verde but the next two groups are kind of mersh and I try to take it easy til we play, but my friend doug showed up and it was a good show for us too. after our set doug offered a ride to the empty bottle where krayola is playing and we try to make it in time for me to run in and play some guitar but they just finished and I say hello to friends from drag city records and other people I've come to know through my krayola/chicago connections and have to cut it short and get back to my bandmates before too long.
when I return to the club where watts gig was our van is packed and they've been waiting for me so I jump in and we drive to jim loves home outside of the city for a safe nights sleep. jim's a very nice fellow and I get the privelege to sleep in a room under a fantastic clown painting, thanks jim.
not much sleep for us as we have a long-ass drive to chicago. I do the driving this time - I like to drive. I like to not drive, also; then you can read, practice (sticks on knees), sleep, write in the tour diary, etc. but I like driving as well. win-win, we call that at the prayer breakfast before a day of vigorous phone sales.
chi town: weather still good. knock on wood. I love thistown - old, hip, soulful, working-class, urbane, vital. lot's of activity in the street. it's early for load-in, so I go get some great coffee. we load in and sound check and tom runs over to do an in-store with the red krayola down the street at restless records.
I finish striking the drums then walk down to see t and the rk. mike is standing outside, watching through the window. he's grinning and saluting the end of each song with fist in the air. I go inside, but there's no room to get a good view, so go outside to watch thru the glass as well.
I'm pretty ignorant of the rk...another gaping hole in my bucket. can't know it all. so I don't know any of the songs. tom said that there's a noise/improvisational aspect juxtaposed with an r & b and blues sound. there's no improv that I can see in this performance, but the jonathon richmond/velvets/shags approach to the rock and roll is cool.
unfortunately I don't get to see george play with them - he's flying in later to play a club gig and flying out after.
I go eat at a pad around the corner, passing under the rusted elevated train tracks. the trains rumble on every few minutes, shaking everything around. this is a city. the restaurant is a hip joint, half enclosed, half open-air with an exposed kitchen. the staff wear an assortment of piercings, fashionable 70's polyester and tattoos. I get soup and salad, bread and coffee. it's great stuff, and the service is right-on. the odd thing is the music. they play an entire journey cd, followed by pat benetar. a waitress, head shaved with various tribal tatts and piercing walks by, singing "hit me with your best shot" along with pat. I am mystified. good food, though.
I have a heavy sleep debt, so I head back to the club. the band rooms are down below the main floor and underneath the heating/cooling system, so it's like the tropics down there. I lie down on the couch. watt is sitting in a chair working on the computer. he knows I'm behind in the sleep so he relocates, shutting off the light as he splits, a kind act of teamwork.
the couch is beyond lumpy. a valley in it pulls me towards the naked singularity. it's like laying on a bag of jello with rocks in it. I like down on the concrete floor and shut my eyes. I don't sleep much, but the stillness and rest is good. I do that for an hour or two and wake up to the strains of vocal warm-ups coming from the neighboring band room - scales, la, la, la's, etc. when they go on, they sing "love is like oxygen", by air supply, with no irony. what's up with this 80's mersh shit, wind city? it's getting to be like the twilight zone...what next, "take these broken wings and learn to fly again so free"?
I alternate warming up with running upstairs to catch part of cobra verde. I'm getting to know their songs more and the more I hear the better I like them. good hooks, changes and words. the guys rock the shit, too. and the wiggling red light on chas as he carves sounds with his hands around the theremin is psychedelic. good work lads, good work.
so I'm running up and down the stairs, catching cobra verde, warming up, listening to tapes of the tunes and talking to various folk. some friendly chronic mike fans are in the band room, chatting with tom. mike's cuz is there with her friends, and they're all nice friendly people. I meet don from legal weapon and talk to him - he lives in chi now. he's a great cat.
at one point after the verde's play, john introduces me to peter davis, who manages nashville pussy and my friends the bell-rays. it was nice talking to peter, a very personable guy. the bell-rays are an awesome band, I love them very much. I got to play with them once at a wedding, of all things. it wasn't enough! I'll be talking to you all soon, 'rays, keep your powder dry.
we play a good rockin' set. there are a minimum of clams to kink the flow-hose. now we're really starting to get it. the shit is getting supple. thank de lawd. we're getting down to a whisper in cow, and building it up to an atom splitting frenzy in lil' JJ. the grooves watt and I are nailing blues riff patterns to the floor while tom blisters the air above are locking, barely stemming the chaotic frenzy of the abyss. knock on wood, sailors.
the drag is that the quieter we get in the soft parts, the more you hear this constant rude fucking loud-ass chatter from the bar. these clowns are so used to seeing bands on mtv that they feel no real-time connection with live humans playing music. when the shit is happening, gigs are events where the audience and performer(s) are equal participants in a single event. the performer(s) need the audience's ears, attention, heart and brains to complete the circuit. the audience needs the performers to initialize the process and fold the audience's input into the mix. more and more I play gigs where musicians are viewed as yet another of a passive service-employees (and at one level I guess we are) class that can be utilized or not at the gig. performers are like set pieces in a play revolving around them. blah blah blah. why go to the gig to rap during the music? do I bring my sax to your social gatherings and blow frenzies while you dunk donuts and discuss duchamp and ducati's?
during the encore, when I get the sax out, willie, who plays with mike in banyan, breaks out his trumpet. this is two nights in a row when we have a trumpet on the encore...I forgot to mention that dave p from oh jeez played trumpet with us in minny. we even were playing harmony horn lines on funhouse...great job dave. anyway, willie gets up on the other side of the stage and is just blowing snakes on the tune - the cat is tearing it up big time. I can just hold on and screech to keep up with the intense lines he's blowing. he's a big strong vital cat - much chi. hope to play with you again down the road, willie.
we stay with jim, another fan of mike's music, at his folks pad. jim works for rand-mcnally, and discusses the patchwork of neighborhoods that is chicago with mike, who knows a lot about it as well. there's a rad painting of three clowns under the big top in the room tom will sleep in that he points out. one clown, in the back, looks as if he's holding drumsticks (his hands are empty, but their position suggests it), one clown sitting on a brightly painted cylinder holds a guitar, I think it was, and the clown in the foreground has what looks like a cross between a baritone sax and some kind of acoustic voice amplification horn. tom suggests that this be our visual identity for mw and the pair of pliers. I agree. all hail the big top.
hell-ride ahead so we gotta pop and bail early at eight. my hands are really hurting so I ask vince to take the wheel for big chi-town. we repeat the ride back to madison and then on to chicago. vince does great. the part we're playing in is called wicker park and it's sort like home w/a strong hispanic neighborhood presence. good chow too, familia authentica style. great book store across the street and I get a book on tesla, descartes and one w/four ibsen plays. right down the street, the _red krayola_, a band tom plays w/now is doing an instore at _reckless records_ and I watch them through the window from the sidewalk. tom joins them. I'm a big fan of mayo thompson's work for a long time and recognize some old tunes. this band goes back to the sixties and has had many incarnations. mayo's the one consistent member. I'm not familiar w/the new stuff. after they're done, I thank mayo and the drummer john mcintire. they say they're going to be playing later at another club but it's at the same time I play. fuck. george hurley is going to play w/them also. double fuck. damn. I get cheered up when bundy brown comes by. he's on a break from his ambulance internship. it's a trip, he needs to work on a terminal heart attack victim to graduate. damn. he's got like four more months to do it in. what a thing to wait for. we both trip on that.
the pad we're playing is called the _double door_ and it's the third time for me there. the floor boss there, steve, is a real help and gets us some yucateca habanero sauce (not too hard to get in this hood but impossible most anywhere except home) and some frontera chipoltle salsa that's great. lots of fruit too. he really cares and he's happening, not just a glad hand. thanks, steve. even the chips are "el ranchero," damn. I load up on these and then head to the boat to konk cuz the last two nights have been late ones. we got two other bands besides the verdes so that means another late one. time to konk and gather some wind.
a long konk and I get woke by some bad pop music. I wonder if the crowd thinks I'm giving my approval cuz they're on the bill. I actually have no idea sometimes. damn, I wish the red krayola could've joined us. it's a packed house and I would love to have mayo in front of this crowd. oh well. I grab the shirts and hit the stage. it's like twelve fucking thirty, arrgggghhhh! good set though, our team snaps tight. the sound on stage is real dead, not as bad as lawrence but more like the sound out front is being limited and kept all small. fuckers at the bar just yap and yap. I turn the mic towards them on "little johnny jewel" and sing it just for them. pricks. finally, before the final tune I ask the soundman to turn the shit up. I do "we are time" like a cattle prod's been dumped in my levis and it still feels like we're in a practice pad nailed up w/carpet and cotton gause. whatever. we come back and willie, who plays trumpet w/perkins and me in _banyan_ comes on to blow trumpet on "funhouse." thanks willie. I got mad at him when he tried to budge me w/fucking knocks on the bulkhead when I was konking in the boat and I tell him sorry. need to konk. I sling shirts and rap w/the folks and then it's settle up and good bye time.
this cat bill offers us a pad but it's not a safe hood for the pad so his bud jim offers us his folks pad where cops and firemen live cuz the folks are in vegas. he says something important. he comments on my spiel from the stage where I say chicago was built from many neighborhoods. he says no one out in the crowd understood what I was talking about, that they were from out in the burbs and don't believe in diversity and patchwork quilt type of cultural fabric. one uni-mall newscaster voice monoglot beige eraserhead bowl of gruel. I think wow, and this is a young man saying this! not an old crusty fuck like me. he's picking up on that vibe too. the track homes, chain stores, generic pop, fast food thin falseness all fitting together and giving us this lame world but maybe also giving us something to react to, maybe even against. I put on demos' mask, hit the deck and think about this and the waves of sueno carry me under.
sunday, october 10 - columbus, oh
the sky is blue and our trip is long and by the time get to columbus we load right in and see cobra verde pull up too. it's really great to see familiar faces at the club when you pull up, it helps the vibe and all. the load and soundcheck goes by and vince and I walk down the street to haiku, a japanese/thai noodle joint and get some good food before it gets too late.
cobra verde rocks out hard and the licks are hott! when we play I am feeling especially ill and my nose is running like crazy but we have a good show and afterwards diana makes my night by calling me at the club and making me feel alot better, a very nice surprise. the evening ended up at the pad of a couple cool dudes named steve and poquito.
up and out. the same routine, fueled by jim's java. thank you jim for your hospitality and company. giant college town, columbus. we're playing at little brothers, which used to be called staches, and was down the street. I played there with bazooka in '93 and with mw and the crew...saucer in '95. in '93 we enjoyed the majestic pagentry of billygoat, who we opened for and in '95 I was very drunk when I played. see Nels's tour diary from '95; he gives a very candid account.
we pull up, load in and sound check pretty quick. the c-verde's cruise in next.
tom and I split on recommendation to an asian noodle house with japanese, vietnamese and thai noodles and a sushi bar, staffed by young people. I get saba (mackerel) sashimi, a buckeye roll (recommended by little bro's door man; we bring an order back for him) and udon. tom gets the pho: good choice. it's great food, just what the doctor ordered.
the verde's do a good show. chas has added camoflage webbing to his keyboard rig - good touch.
we play, good. it's fun. the sax got put in mike's monitor as well as mine, though, so he got blasted by it, unbeknownst to me. we stay at paquito and steve's after the gig. I crash out pretty quickly.
what's this, another hell-ride? well, there's a bunch of miles and another time zone to boot so we're off early. my men are beat so I'm gonna drive despite the swollen knuckles. we say bye to jim and the boat weighs anchor and starts for our next port, columbus. should be a calm ride cuz of sunday but wrecks slow us down getting out of town. kind of gray and misty which is lame for seeing their skyline but it's a blessing compared w/rain or worse. going through gary, indiana brings one big stench on board. damn, when will clean up our industrial toilets and learn to love this mother earth home? why is it sissy talk to some to ask this? quien es mas macho? que chingas, mike watt.
we get there an hour past soundcheck but then our soundchecks are tiny. watt likes them that way. one soft version of "walkin' the cow" and we're done. why blast an empty room when the sound's gonna completely change when folks come? tera's the soundperson and she gets us going right up. dan dugan's the boss here at _little brother's_ and I dig him a bunch. been here for me in columbus for a long time. cleveland's baseball team is getting beat up big time by the bosox but he don't really care much, he likes the pirates across the border in pittsburgh. he says "it's just a game, anyway," which is great to hear cuz you know how people can get like assholes obsessing on shit like sports when meanwhile, we're pissing in our drinking water.
some good news is we get to play at 10:30 pm instead of like midnight and I dig this. I'm even gonna miss my nap so I can catch the whole _cobra verde_ set. they're great and I go up front cuz everyone's scared and I start pounding on the stage and getting into their trip. unfortunately, I pound a tiny piece of glass into the palm of my hand. damn. gotta be more fucking careful but I got carried away. the theremin chas uses is wild and frank's a great guitar player. I wonder why the singer john stopped playing guitar? he's great too. he says he wants one day to dress me in glam clothes. I tell him no prob, I wore a dress-type of kaftan for perry. folks get scared to speak their mind around me sometimes. I wish I could make them more comfortable but that's probably my navy housing upbringing but you know, I shouldn't be using that as an excuse. we're all changelings and can always try to make things better. I gotta make an effort w/this. sometimes I must come off as a motherfucking fascist. gotta look in the mirror and say, "watt, you gotta get it together, you fucking wigger." lots of battles within, I hope foks understand. sometimes the outside battles can make much easier targets and in the long run, maybe make it a little easier to play the shirker. gotta keep this shit in perspective.
the stage here has no sides or a back so it's like you're coming out of a cake. that makes for some weird sound but the gig goes good. we got a good crowd for columbus on a sunday and there's a room full of good energy and this makes things fun as well as intense. lots of encores, I pull out "intense song for madonna" for the first time on tour and it's a trip for tom cuz I get me and vince to come down real low. I want tom to shine.
a cat w/a germs tatto on his arm named steve and his buddy poquito have us over their pad to konk. there's a group of folks there waiting but we're all tired and start to assume the position immediately. I tell them sorry but we gotta manage our resources if we're gonna play our best, tour's only one third over. they get the picture when I put that eye cover thing demos gave me over my face. thanks again, demos. thank you too, steve and poquito, for understanding and putting us up. the sound of men konking soon follows.
monday, october 11 - cleveland, oh
we awake on their floor in the morning sunlight.
in cleveland I try to get some medication and I discribe my condition to a doctor at the local pharmacy and he just keeps saying welcome to cleveland. I am met later at the club by my old pal tippy from my slovenly days, he was a good friend and a great guitarist but I hadn't seen him in years, so my evening was spent catching up with him and exchanging new stories....
our time at the grog shop blew by quickly but we had a good time there and I enjoyed meeting the people running the place, kathy, christine, mike....thanks for the memories.
cleveland is a cool town; home of the verde's. my old buddy and sax repair man jerry king comes from there too - he moved to tejas. no more hanging out in jerry's garage sucking down budweisers from the twelver while he fixes my horn...all good things must come to an end. the club is in a burb. the buildings are old, there's a lot of foliage and there's a main street feel, with a revolutionary bookstore on the corner has big posters of chairman mao. there are coffee joints, used cd shops, a vintage clothes store, a hardware store and a theater.
kathy at the grog shop, the club, welcomes us. she's sitting outside the club answering the phone, making calls and taking in the great weather (we're still lucking out). the grog shop is my favorite kind of club. it's not too big, has cool murals on the wall, sort of s. clay wilson style, is a little down and gritty, and has a good p.a.
al's bar is our l.a. version of the grog shop, and I love al's dearly, but the p.a. there ain't so great. and, jeez, how about fixing the monitors? but al's has extra grit, which I dig. mr. t's is another cool club we have like that. and at t's there are regulars who still come to the bar since it was a bowling alley. they guzzle the strong drinks and appraise the bands each night. it's a down pad.
our soundmanis named mike, and he does a great job; sound check goes quickly. bob teagen from out detroit way shows up with the mobile video squad that tapes mike on tours.
the verde's are great - I see their whole show this time. I dig their tunes and like the way they play them. john, their singer, said they were a little tired and sluggish, but I think they've got some headroom there - they sounded good.
the video camera spooks me and I'm self-conscious so it pulls me out of the moment a lot: "what if I fuck up and it's the eternal representation of my participation to this unit?" so, of course I fuck up. not much, I'm just a little out of step. I get off in the r and the b. we snap back though. after the show people are complementing my sax playing and whenever they do that I figure they didn't like the drumming. that's paranoia for you. I could hear my vocals about the best so far of any gig, and played Igor the best of all the shows, save for seattle, I'd say. I used to have a problem with the headset mic moving around on my head so the mic would rarely be in front of my mouth. it made for some good stage business with tom moving the headset into position while we're playing - in fact, once during the blue mask both watt and watson were adjusting the headset while I sang - good teamwork, good show biz.
but now I wear a cap that holds the headset on my head and that solves the migrating mic problem. watt cut the bill off a ball-cap so as to avoid the jock-rock vibe. so it looks like a beanie - it's a little goofy, like I'm trying to hide my receding hairline, but hey, it works.
we stay at matt's, the brother of steve from columbus. to get to his pad we cut through seemingly most of cleveland. his pad is in the flats. the old narrow streets with storefronts, walkups and trees everywhere are great, so are the bridges and the urban area/financial district.
matt is, among other things, a poet, and from the look of his book and cd collection, an avid reader and music listener. he is animated talking about shows around town. he prints out his poems for watt, I ask for a copy, so I get them too.
short drive today, two and a half hours to cleveland and bless the stars, still fair weather. we must be following some kind of front cuz everyone's been saying how we just missed some shit hell rain crap. many, many thanks. makes for so much easier sailing. tonight we play the _grog shop_ in the verde's home town. the boss, kathi, has got her desk outside the front door and she's doing her work cali style out in the sun. you can't take good weather for granted, what a gift this planet can bring us.
there's a revolutionary book store a couple doors down but it seems this place is never open when I come to town. it also seems so musty w/maoist kind of stuff twisted by bob avakian mostly in prominence. there's a lot of his thinking I would not call at all revolutionary and pretty much tired and boring. such a cartoon. I would like to talk to someone there about that and challenge some positions but the door is always locked w/no one aboard. like one of those records where you're just hearing some pimping of guerilla chic. pretty shallow. better to have a talk w/john (verde) about shit. he's always revved up when they get to the pad to load in and wants to talk about shit. pretty exciting.
I konk right after souncheck. it's a trip how sometimes I get woke by a band and hear them in the semi-konk state and they're good. this band _religion against religion_ is a local that's opening tonight and I'm liking the jams they're putting down. too tired though and more konk. I know I say a lot of this _konk_ shit but that's what tours like this are kind of like for me in order to even fucking be able to do them. the thing to do is just keep writing this diary, keep wailing my hands out on the bass. no running, no hiding, no searching behind. wake for gig time and hit the stage. mike is doing the sound and he's really enthused and into doing it. makes such a difference. he's great and helps out big time. the pair of pliers are playing great. good gig. pack, load and then I thank kathi mucho for having us aboard before shoving off.
matt (the bro of steve, who had us up last night in columbus) asks us to konk at his pad. he's been sending me poems for a long time. he's got a buddy w/him from venezuela who offers some keen insights. his pop picked cleveland from a map and said "you're going to school here" and so he did. he tells me about a trip he took west to utah and what blew his mind was no matter where he stopped to get gas or chow, the same stucco pads w/the same fast food was everywhere for a couple of thousand miles. he said "no way." I said "way." he told me he will fight like hell to keep that from happening to his land. I say good luck. he's got spirit. matt talks about why he moved to downtown cleveland to help stop the inner city rot and not do the flight thing to the suburbs. brave words and brave deeds. I admire these brothers much and tell them so as sueno smudges my speech into slurring, bringing on a konk this watt body surely needs.
read week 2 of the tour diary
read week 4 of the tour diary
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this page created 20 oct 99