"searchin' the shed for pliers" tour '99 diary - week 5

tuesday, october 19 - baltimore, md

from tom:

 fletchers is a bar down by the wharf where the sky was grey and misty and dreary in a nice way. before unloading vince and I stroll about and find a good cup of coffee nearby and then return to move the gear upstairs to the stage area. tonight we are playing with jenny toomey and a cellist named amy, and I sit through their soundcheck and find out how good they are. we mill around a while then hit a dinner spot across the street before gig time. the night is feeling pretty mellow.

 jenny and amy have a real soothing sound with great songs and sound textures with amys cello going through a fender twin. man, thats twice the power of my bandmaster. this gig is just them and us as part of a low power radio support/awareness movement that we're pushing along this tour. jenny did her bit to inform the good folks in between songs. we do the same and play with some fury too.

 the rain started again at load out and continued through the night at our motel near the baltimore airport.

from vince:

 I woke up early, a molten wolverine clawing at my innards. the habanero seeds were fighting a war with my intestines. peristaltic spasms forced me into the head time after time. mike came up to announce nine and a half bells (hence impending departure) and he was suffering similarly. he'd warned me about the seed curse, but i thought I'd be immune. I was very wrong.

 we drove chris to his jeep in baltimore, and we saw him off. a great guy, chris, a real member of the team. he brought a lot of fun, help and learning to the journey. he started his career in journalism when he went to a newspaper and asked what job they had for an english major. they said, "reporter?", and he swallowed hard and jumped. he ended up doing the kind of investigative pieces that few have the belly for - he exposed corrupt politicians and put a couple crooked cops in jail. he worked up to the paper he's working for now because of his good courageous work and is at the point where he can pitch a story - travel with mike watt for a week to write about what makes him tick, for example - and they say ok. and he pitched in every step of the way and was a full team member, a full bro. a down to earth person, full of humor, humility and warmth. god love ya, chris, hope to see you down the road for sure. keep up the good fight, compadre!

 so on to baltimore...

 baltimore, another port city. there's a light rain happening...eventually, it seems, we'll have to pay the weather piper, maybe now we start. we get to fletchers, the gig pad, plenty early, so there's time to call wives, girlfriends, even time for tom and I to have a couple games of foosball. after the sport we walk to an area by the water with shops, food, etc. I get a slice that's pretty good, and a triple capp. simple sustenance, but effective. it's a cool area, not melrosed out, but with ample amenities. later I find out that mike got mussels. what am I doing eating pizza when there are mussels around?

 we get back and load in, up the metal stairs to the second floor in the rain. we've been lucky with load-ins and the weather so far, so it's ok to pay some dues. dave, the sound man, is skilled and sound check goes quickly.

 the opening band is a duo, acoustic guitar and cello, both women singing. they're great, but I spend their entire set typiing into the computer. I finish, in fact, just in time to run downstairs to set up and play the set. I don't stretch and warm up like I usually do, so my arms tighten up right away and the beginning of the set is perilous to me...plenty of stick droppping, but it's still a good set. I need to put a new reed on my horn. the one I'm using now is like a soggy noodle and has no bite. It gets me through the encore, though. there doesn't seem to be enough time to do everything that needs to be done.

 mike spiels on low powered radio again, a message that needs to get out.

 we pack up quick and head out lickety-split, like we usually do, and go to a motel. usually we stay at mo-6's, but we're at a non-chain tonight. it's raining pretty good as we check in. it's clean and comfortable enough and we fall asleep quickly.

from watt:

 pop and hoof around the neighborhood. it's the old river front area by the james river and stuff here is going through the old gentrification program, lots of frat bars and stuff like that. I find an old cafe on main street and everyone there is talking and friendly. older black folks mainly, very nice. big hugs from the waitress and good home cooking. I chow an omelette. not many breakfasts for watt on tour, I like keeping an edge and not feeling all heavy as we roll and do gigs. this pad has a good feel and I like all the spiel. the waitress, an older gal, is busting all the regulars' chops and always starts her sentences w/"hello?" she gives me a bunch of hugs and squeezes. nice, nice feel. it's a way you get a bunch of when you come south, lots of niceness for strangers if you don't come at them w/'tude. the rest of the country could pick up on this.

 today we have to say goodbye to reporter chris so I have him do one more drive, up to his car in dc. sad to see him go, I hope he had a trip of a time. I told him there's a lot of navy chief petty officer in me from my pop and living in navy housing, I hope he understands the barkin' wasn't coming from meaness but from bad habits. I'm trying to get better at that. we do have a lot of fun on tour and lots of laughs but we also gotta keep the sails taunt too, there's no baby sitters on this boat and we only have each other. I tell him I'm lucky to have cats like tom and vince on this tour who are one hell of a pair of pliers. the gruffness is something I'm trying to overcome. I can imagine how maybe he thought I was completely another cat before actually setting sail w/us. it'll be a trip to see the article he's gonna write. still hard to believe he's only twenty six. I learned this yesterday. I could've swore he was closer to forty or something. damn. fooled again. never underestimate the youth. we find out he plays guitar, maybe he'll get a band going and tour too. wonder if he'll tour like us? ho! bye, chris.

 we head through the beltway and up to baltimore. the pad is called _fletcher's_ and is in the fell's point area, on the waterfront almost, where they used to build cutter ships a long time ago. while parking, some cat comes by and asks if I want muscles (he's read the diaries) and I say yes, so he tells me to go to the _admiral's cup_ which I do, right by the water. the muscles are great w/tons of garlic sauce and much fresher than the ones I got last in salt lake city. feels good in the gut. I go to the van and konk.

 jenny toomey is opening up tonight for us. she was in the band _tsunami_ and now is involved w/the low power fm issue, which I'm also a proponent. she's been circulating petitions and shit for the fcc to license grass roots oriented stations to offer some options to the commercial crap that gets bombarded on folks constantly. right now our only defense is to turn those fuckers off but hopefully, free speech can find a way through the morass. we can only struggle and hope. things gotta turn around, gotta wreck the fascist machinery. I do an interview w/the city paper (local weekly) and try to articulate these very thoughts. the reporter is very attentive and I think gets my drift.

 we go on and the gig starts good. always been hard for watt to get a huge bunch of folks in baltimore but I'm gonna keep coming back and try to build it up. the soundman dave is a great cat and helps much. the folks here tonight to see the show are top shelf and we have a great gig, spurred on by their big spirit. thank you much, baltimore cats. the boss tonight, chris, is happy, having seen my last years ago at the 930 in dc and I tell him to tell lisa, the regular boss, much hugs for keeping w/me all these tours. it's good to have cats in your corner.

 we pack and load w/a sprinkle coming down. three blow-bys and loops later, we finally find the ho, called "the beltway" and pull in to dock. they got their own little cafe out front so maybe hotcakes tomorrow for watt, huh? haven't had them all tour. I thank tom and vince for a job well done, lower the mask and start trading tired inhales for tons of z's as the konk takes me under.

wednesday, october 20 - rehobeth beach, de

from tom:

 we awake to more rain and I eat pancakes in the diner there and watch the puddles grow. rain all the way through deleware to the atlantic coast and doesnt look like it will stop. were early and wait outside in the van til someone opens the bar. rehobeth is a party town from what I hear but the weather looks pretty grim and nobody is out on the streets.

 soon chris (promoter and friend of mike and vince) shows up and helps load in through the soggyness. tonight we get to play one of two gigs with our pals from hoboken, two dollar guitar, but before we see them we head to chris' pad to eat some homecookin' prepared by his girlfriend jen, very appreciated. I slip away into post meal coma.

 at 9:30 we get up and return to fletchers where their homebrew I do sample. I watch jim open the show with some good songs and some pure vocals. I clapped loudly but folks at the bar drowned me out with their yackin'. tim, steve and janet of two dollar guitar get up and sound great on such a rainy day. tim's songs are sparse and gritty and his cough-syrupy baritone voice always puts my head in a fuzzy state. steve's drumming is so steady it blows my mind, and janet who is kind of new in the band but her bass and voice seem to complete their sound better than ever before. tim asked if would play on the last tune so I did. there was still too much bar noise during their soft songs for my taste.

 we get up and get the soft songs talked over and the loud ones slammed to and my mic gets kicked into my mouth a couple times but other than that is a good set. my drumming is getting stronger but I still make little errors here and there, nothing too lame. we load out quick and jam to chris' and I eat two slices of jen's banana cream pie and slip into dreamworld.

from vince:

 There's enough time in the morning for me to stretch, which helps my back a lot. there's a decent coffee shop there at the mo and I get poached, wheat toast, juice and home fries. it's good. I like having a hot breakfast before we take off, and we only have time for that once every four or five days. so it's that much more enjoyable. so off we go to rehobeth beach.

 rehobeth beach is the home of the great duke of delaware, chris lausch. I met chris when mike and the crew of the flying saucer played at a sports bar in rehobeth in '95 in the midst of some sort of greek system/military personnel holiday when every jock, jockette and member of the service for hundreds of miles was crawling the streets, drunk, hooting like wounded weasels. see the '95 diary. anyway, chris put us up then and got bazooka booked twice in '97 and put us up, and booked slackjaw blues in '97 and put us up, too.

 chris booked mike and the pliers into a club he's booking there, the dogfish brew pub and grille. we stop there when we get into town and it's still raining. chris shows up at the club and we hang out there for awhile before loading in, through parking lot ponds. we then go to chris's house and his girlfriend, jen, has prepared chicken gumbo, pasta with chicken in cream sauce and apple crisp with ice cream. tough life we lead. the food was great - jen can cook. after the meal tom and I pass out for awhile, then wake up so we can all make our way over to the dogfish to play.

 our friends two dollar guitar, steve, janet and tim are there - we get to play with them again, which is great.

 peter, a songwriter/singer opens the show - he and his acoustic guitar. his songs are good, nice melodies and chords and he sings well. he's got a very easy going stage presence that warms up the crowd.

 two dollar guitar plays and I really enjoy them. their groove is medium to slow tempo mostly, with a real syrupy feel, very moody - dark dark blue. tim sings unaffected and relaxed and janet has a great feel with a wide deep bass sound. steve is one of the greatest drummers alive with bitchen drum sound, unerring meter and feel and a great touch. the guitar bites through the tunes - it's a great sound all around.

 the gig is good. there's a good pit, and at one point a cat grabs the mic and says "one love to all the skaters out there". nice sentiment, amigo, but what about the rest of us? another love? no love? he means well, though, and the enthusiasm is high. some of the kids crouch down in front of the stage while we're playing and their buddies snap photo's. it's a fun gig.

 after, we head to chris's to conk, and conk we do, after more apple crisp, ice cream and great banana cream pie. oh the burden. mike resists the temptation and doesn't eat after the gig.

from watt:

 rain beating down as I pop and head for the little cafe out front of the ho. I order hot cakes and shovel them down w/out butter or syrup. they're good and doughy, hardly browned but I don't care, much roughage. these chuck taylors I'm wearing are really beat up and I gotta watch the ground for puddles cuz of the soak factor. remember, watt don't wear socks. I wonder if this pair can last the tour, they're ripped up pretty heavy. I'm gonna try my best. nothing worse than new shoes in a middle of a tour. makes me feel all funky and self-conscious and I stumble a lot more cuz they can't bend as easy and they seem to thick and high.

 this rain brings wet cold into my joints which translates into pain and stiffness. I can't grip the steering wheel so I ask vince to sail us up north into delaware, through wilmington and then south past dover and into rehobeth beach w/a sky full of rain. this is my second gig in this town and both times it's been pouring. oh well. this pad is called the _dogfish head brewings & eats_ and the boss sam is a real nice cat. let's me use his cell phone to try and get my low power fm message to some writer from spin magazine. hope they do something creative w/my spiel. I must've spent an hour and watch it end up like one or two sound bites.

 chris, an old friend from delaware got us this gig and he brings us to his pad to chow us on some good food jen has made. the soup is really down and I dig it. the other stuff is too heavy so I have more soup and dump in bunches of habanero sauce he's got for us. thanks much chris and jen. we get back to the dogfish and steve shelley's _two dollar guitar_ is opening up. great. not so great is me konking out in the boat and missing their whole set, damn. I'm tired though and am konked for a long time. tom wakes me for the downbeat and I'm heading up the stairs w/a bag of shirts and ready to go. cliff, the soundman does a great job w/the tiny toy system and our pliers team does good. lots of skaters in the crowd and this makes for a good energy. I really enjoy playing for these cats. you can see some folks at the bar w/their heads turned the other way and of course, they're yammerin' up a storm. why can't they drink downstairs? maybe their secretly listening and don't want to let on. I wonder. we get done and I sign a couple of basses and have some good talks w/the cats. tim from the phily show, who we missed afterwards is there w/a ships wheel that has pictures from the "double nickels on the dime" album in it. it's very nice and I thank him. we pack up and head for chris' and I collapse into his couch totally falling quick to sueno. one neat thing, the rain did stop. many, many sleepy thanks.

thursday, october 21 - northhampton, ma

from tom:

 after a six hour drive through five states we enter northampton to find the club having an early show so we cant load till 9. luckily thurston drives up and we head to his house where we will be staying for the night. kim and little coco are there and I get a tour and talk to kim about tiles and colors for a while. I had a good time just hanging around with them somewhere other than a backstage room. they're some of the nicest folks you could meet.

 soon we head back over to the iron horse to get ready to play. tonight it is only us on the bill so we set up, check and play. it's a pretty smooth night in front of a lot of good listeners and it goes well. afterwards we all wind down at load out and roll back to thurstons to chew the fat till bed time.

from vince:

 once again, it's up and out...on to the next adventure. thanks again, chris - you are the greatest. and thanks, also to you jen. nice to meet such a wonderful person - glad you and chris hooked up!

 we're early into this old boston school town. tom and I hit the music store where I bought my china back in '95. the folks there are helpful and I rummage through the used parts box there for a floor-tom foot that got lost a couple gigs ago. we get back to the club where we're parked (couldn't load in yet because there's an early show going on) and thurston drives up. we go pick up a couple burritos he's ordered for kim and coco but the lines too long for us to get something there, so we go to a natural food store and get soggy tofu sandwiches and good juice. we head back to thurston, kim and coco's to eat and hang before the gig. there, kim offers split pea soup she's made and watt and I have some. it's very good. split pea soup is one of my favorite foods and it's good; there's good bread, too.

 the last time I saw coco she was in a baby carraige in '95 when we played with the sonics at lallapalooza. now she's sitting at the table, conversing with us. she's going to school; growing up.

 I'm a little in awe over at their pad, eating kim's split pea soup. the sonics blow my mind completely. the music they make is so inconceivably bitchen to me that to sit in their house and talk to thurs and kim is weird. they're, like, normal people. how the hell do they create that sound? it's kind of the same touring with mike. day to day we're driving in the van, loading in, playing, etc., but when I think of the music he's created and been involved with; minutemen, 'hose, watt, it blows my mind. the same goes for tom - listen to the guy play, for god's sake. a lot of nights, playing with mike and tom, I think: these guys are wailing like dervi - how'd I end up here? best not to think of it that way too much - hamstrings my head. better to live day to day, play the music real time and be a part of it rather than stand outside of it.

 we go to the gig pad, the iron horse music hall, set up fast, sound check and get ready to play. now murph and j. mascis are here. it's really nervous time at the forum - I am playing for the pantheon. I'm not trying to butter anyone's toast, here, but these are olympians, for chrissakes. the gig goes pretty well, I think. murph is very encouraging, afterwards, and this does my heart good. he says he wants to do a drumming mp3 together. hey, I'm all for it, murph, let's do it - yeah man!

 afterwards we head to thurst, kim and coco's. byron, the writer, and another friend of thurst and watt's are there and there's a bottle of knob creek and everyone starts talking about bands from television to catholic discipline. it's a summit meeting, full of tales from the old days and recalling bands, events and old friends. I am out of my league on the history and do a lot of listening. I turn in - I have my own guest bedroom with a bathroom, a comfortable bed and comforter and space to do some stretches in the morning. there's even a book of kenneth rexroth letters, but I need some sleep, so I hit it.

from watt:

 pop and roust early cuz we got some five or six states to go through to get to tonight's gig in northampton in west mass. we do the manhattan dodge again and cross the hudson via the tappan zee bridge. lots of turnpike and don't you love the choices a private closed up road gives you? what am I saying? the whole ride up through delaware had no mom and pop pads, all chain trough shit. so anyway, we find a _nathan's_ at one of these service plazas and chow there. nathan dogs have some good snap to the skin, even at fucking three bucks a pop. later, vince scented the boat as he made a trumpet of his ass. I know we've been aboard the boat a while and our noses are somewhat desensitized but vince proves to us they are not completely crippled. damn, the windows roll down quickly.

 we arrive in northampton and I hoof around to check out the town. I see a sticker saying "support independent shops, keep northampton unique." good thoughts. good for the rest of the country too. I find a book store that's got some econo stuff. I get books by frederick douglas, henry thoreau, jonathan swift and an autobiography by ben franklin, all for under six dollars! I hoof back to the pad and yes, a good parking spot. some young folks from vermont are there waiting for the show and they hold the spot for me while I get the boat. they give me a small cat totem in respect for the man. very kind. then who just shows up? thurst! I'm so glad to see him. he lives in this town now. he's gotta get some chow for kim and coco. me and the pliers go w/him and I see umberto eco's new book "kant and the platypus" and buy that one quick. I dig that writer a bunch. in the store where thurst is buying chow I see a bottle of one hundred percent cranberry juice and dig that. it's hard to find anything w/more than twenty seven percent. guess they think folks need sugar to choke it down but I like it tart and sour enough to pucker your asshole. thing is, they want eight bucks for a quart, denied! too much people, sorry. we get to thurst's pad and it's this neat old house. I dig it much. kim's made green pea soup and it's real good. we all sit around the table, chow and talk. good catching up w/these old friends, they mean a lot to me. don't know where I'd be w/out them, they've helped me through some heavy times. coco's growing up quick and talking a bunch. kim's doing some tile for the pad so tom gets going on that. him and his wife have a tile company and kim digs the insights he brings. the sonics got all their shit stole in cali the day before that "this ain't no picnic" festival back on the fourth of july. all those years of songs and gigs w/those machines all gone. thurst tells me they're making a new record now and even though he's got another jazzmaster (like he used to mostly play), he's done like eighty percent w/a les paul, a guitar he's never played. what a mindblow. no whammy bar either and he loves bending those. that's it, just two guitars. he says lee went and replaced his stole shit w/like a thousand guitars. well, maybe not a thousand but a bunch. man, I know losing that shit was hard but these cats are idea folks anyway.

 early show and there's no opening act, whoa. good to play early. this pad, the _iron horse_ had a show earlier so we're just going do a line check and the start the gig up. j shows and it's also great to see him. he gives me a cd of the record he just recorded, "j mascis and the fog." damn, can't wait to hear it. murph, his old dinosaur drummer comes too, yes! good to play in front of your friends, let them see what watt's up to. we start the gig and vince is a little nervous, I can tell. he plows through some breaks and drops the sticks a few times. I ask him to relax, I know he's tripping playing in front of my buds but they're just folks and w/got a good thing going w/the pliers. tom works his machine great and jim, the soundman, does a great job w/our sound. we play a good gig and the spirit in the ground is something else to play off. the only cats yammerin' are right in front of me by the stage instead of w/the back of the heads to me at the bar. pretty funny. pack up and we're staying at thurst's. great, we're finished early.

 get to his pad and lay out the blankey on the couch and head falls to pilla when who shows up? byron! w/a bottle of _knob creek_ too, a good bourbon but watt ain't drinking whisky this tour and holds fast. damn. dig talking w/byron though and we jaw for like three or four hours! it seems like it goes by like that, snap! when you're having fun, things are like that. byron's a warehouse of infos and stories and I dig spieling w/him. talking about first gigs when were kids and old punk stuff when the scene started and shit like that. thurst throws in the towel first and then finally watt is done too, worn but happy, konking grateful for such good folks.

friday, october 22 - albany, ny

from tom:

 the sun rises and we say goodbye and head out of town to change the oil before our trip towards albany. the skies are changing and the trees take on new colors but I am looking forward to playing with the two dollar guitar again.

 albany is a scenic old city with hills and a lot of visible culture, but as the sun starts to go down so does the temperature which is something my hands don't like very much. we get settled in and vince and I join the $2 g's for food next door and entertain one another before the show. the openers are a trio called the stars of rock who are going to head out west to the san diego area to find new fans and surf. I watch them do their farewell show and I find them very enjoyable. then two dollar guitar play their last show with us and transcend the soundsystem hum and feedback problems to deliver another great show and again allow me up to play on the last song. our show flows smoothly except for similar monitor problems.

 after we pack up we head through the wetness towards aarons flat of the stars of rock to sack down.

from vince:

 wake up and there's room for stretches and excercise, so I do the whole 40 minute routine that helps me through the day like I just can't tell you. it helps me play, helps my problematic back and helps me feel good. if I don't do it for a couple days my hands get numb and I'm more prone to drop sticks and not execute the fast stuff. so I'm real happy when I get the space and the time to do it and today is such a day. allright. I shower and have time before our shove off time for a 30 minute walk, which helps me a great deal. I take 35 minutes and the van is coming down the street when I turn the corner. "we're auditioning drummers in albany", watt says. I laugh and get into the van. let's go to albany, team. I regret that I didn't get to say goodbye to thurst, kim and coco and thank them for their hospitality. thank you, nice people.

 mike gets the oil changed heading out of town and tom and I eat some breakfast...same order for me. it's good. we head out. I drive now. on the way to albany it we run into rain. by the time we get to albany, it's pretty cold and it's raining. there's a laundramat next to the club, and mike and I commence de-stench maneuvers.

 the laundramat is the worst I've ever seen. only ten percent of the washers and driers work. rather than the out of order ones being marked, the ones that work are. adjacent working machines are the exception. there's a sign that offers free laundry soap with wash (the vending machines are empty and the change machine doesn't work) and when I ask the attendent lady for some, she acts as if I'm asking to borrow her pacemaker for a while. during the dry cycle tom and I walk to the post office, which we thought was just a few blocks down the street, but it ends up being a long ass walk in the cold. It's fun, however. tom is constantly consistently hilarious. most of our conversations consist of him talking, mugging, and me laughing. when he and watt get going on the gags I can't stop cracking up. it may seem gratuitous to them because of the predictable doubling over and cackling I do, but I can't help it. anyway, we get to the p.o. and send money orders home and postcards out and all that and walk back to the club.

 about three blocks from the club we hear some obnoxious contemporary country music and dj blather blasting, echoing through the streets. it sounds like someone is cranking a crummy car stereo at the light we're crossing, but instead of the sound receeding as we pass it gets louder. the closer we get to the club, the louder and crappier it sounds. it turns out that there's a mini-truck parked right in front of the laundramat next to the club with a couple speakers on it and a banner advertising the radio station the promotional assault is in service of draped on it. it is hellish. tom goes into the club and I go to take my clothes out of the drier. surprise! the drier doesn't work for shit and I have to dry them all over in another machine. I do so, then go over and join tom for a couple slices of 'za and a cup of beef barley soup at the food pad at the club, valentines.

 we load in and sound check. I hang out in the dressing room, doing some drum warm-ups and conking for a little bit. two-dollar guitar show up and I'm stoked. I didn't know they were playing with us and I'm glad to see them again and am glad to be able to hear them - they are great. they, tom and I go next door to eat. I have a salad and hydrate on juice, water and more water. it's great to hang with them - very good company.

 the rock stars of the universe play and I like them, what I hear of them. I'm beat and after a couple songs stumble into the band room and fall asleep in a chair, waking up now and then and doing some warm-ups then falling back asleep. when we get to rocking ourselves I think we play pretty well despite this constant three frequency feedback din that blasts us from all angles. mike gets it the worst; he says that he wanted to die up there. that's pretty bad. the monitors are suspended from above and that seems to be sub-optimal for our set-up, way up front on the stage. I dig our set-up, right up front like I said, with the drums angled towards watt and almost to the front of the stage, but I think it gives a lot of sound-folk a challenge. thanks for dealing with us, people, we appreciate it.

 we stay at aaron's from the rock stars, who, by the way, are moving to san diego to join team california. it's quick conkery.

from watt:

 pop early so I can help thurst walk coco to school. a little competition for her pop's attention gets her in a weird mood. it's colder than a witch's tit in a brass bra and the walk is intense. that don't mean the sun ain't out though. it looks like a white moon shining through the overcast minus the craters and patterns. thurst says the copper content in the soil's kind of low so the trees aren't as bright as usual but damn, they sure are dazzling this watt who lives in cali and sees mainly furs and palms. it's a righteous walk and we're taking curly, this righteous little jack russell terrier they have that is the most lovable, cuddly puppy ever. we get to the school and all the teachers make fun of watt for not having socks and having the toes stick out of the chuck taylors. well, you gotta pay for your fashion. we get back and thurst has to lay down cuz his gut is hurting him. him and kim (along w/coco) go to nyc on the weekends to work on their new album w/lee and steve. I sit down and read their new york times and talk about stuff in w/kim. she's really sharp and intellegent about all kinds of issues, art, news and whatever. love her bass work too. it's great to hear her take on things. she points out shit to watt that he overlooks w/out knowing it. years ago, she had me look at this book about a house wittgenstein had designed for his sister in austria. this got me into reading him and his theories on semantics and later, eco and his semiotics. we have a talk about dreams (even afterlife and afterdeath) and then she shows me a story in the paper on marcel duchamp. duchamp said that in art, the idea is more important than the object. I think for a moment about bands like ______, ___ ____ and ____ (insert current trendies here) but only for a moment. this article is about folks having a show that imitates duchamp's "readymades." whoa. like kira, kim's a smart lady who doesn't have to say she is or put on airs. she'd rather step back and let you stumble on your own words and then come in and help out w/some reason and perspective. her and thurst make a great team. it's time to bail and I hug them both, at least I got to spend a little time. it's folks like them and raymond pettibon who've had such an effect on me by them just being them. such teachers, wish I was a better student.

 it's been three thousand miles and time to change the oil on the boat. I bring it in while tom and vince go chow then it's time for us to head across the border to albany, the capitol of new york state. we're playing _valentine's_ and lo and behold, it's right next to a laundromat. lucky watt! had hardly any outfits left too, good thing. it's raining heavy, damn. cold too. double damn. my bones are aching big time. howard, the boss here, makes me some hot wings that he calls "stupid hot." not for this cali cat! I guess he's using a hot sauce called "frank's" but it's on a par w/tobasco and I don't even break a sweat. he's upstate new york though so I can understand. he booked me before at the pad I used to play in town, _bogie's_ but that's turned into a dance club now. and after they found an old vaudeville stage under the stage they ripped out to make a dance floor too. damn. had foot lamps and everything. aarrrggghhhhh, the culture lost. not that I'm against dancing or anything. I go to the boat and do the pre-gig konk.

 I'm beat and konk for like three hours straight when tom wakes me for gig time. damn, I miss the openers, _stars of rock_ who I wanted to see bad. they're moving to san diego in a couple of days. the pad is packed but we have a bad gig. the monitors are fucking terrible. midrange feedback the whole time and it's killing me. hard to build any character around my voice and I can tell it's hard for vince to hear my bass. drone and drone of feedback drown us. they got the monitors mounted on the ceiling and it sounds like they're out of phase, it's a mess. damna. the feel in the crowd though is good so I try my hardest. I can imagine the sound in the house. the soundman chris is a nice guy but I think the system is just too fucked up for him to get it together. we get lots of encores but this is tough to get through. I feel like a jerk after the gig, like a failure. lots of cats give me congrats but I feel small inside, like I couldn't do my best, like I let down d. boon. it makes me sad. I try not to show it.

 aron, a cat from the opening band invites us to stay at his pad. we pack up and head through the cold. even though folks tell you they liked the gig it's still hard to live w/the impression I have that I did lame. I feel like punching myself in the head. right away when we get to his pad, I cover myself w/the blankey and pull the mask over the eyes and try to konk quick. recrimination after recrimination chases me into a corner that only konk can save me from and thank god, finally I am out.

saturday, october 23 - montreal, pq, canada

from tom:

 the next thing I know we awake, reorganizize, he cooks us breakfast and we move out early to the border. driving into canada is another change of environment entirely. when we get to the border its about twenty degrees colder and the sky is grey but we have a quick check from the customs guards and head on to the jailhouse club. its raining again and almost cold enough to snow but the doors are open and its nice and warm inside. its a basic bar and stage setup and the people there are warm too. mikes friend dan invites us for indian food around the corner which is right on target and highly satifying.

 ticking of time continues but its too wet and cold to walk around so I do some writing in back and talk with erik from the other band thats playing tonight. the band hashimoto gets a late start due to members having another early gig somewhere but it starts up and the people of montreal start to move in. we kick into "get, gettin'..." asap and play to a spirited crowd with the help from alex doing good sound. the next thing I know I fall asleep on some generous folks floor and get awakened to waffles and tea. I look forward to returning, maybe after winter.

from vince:

 I drive - to me it's an honor to helm the boat into canada. she's a good vessel, a very good vessel, and to be trusted on such a journey means a lot to me. the border crossing goes smoothly - the canadian border people are typically efficient and courteous. when they ask if we have alcohol or tobacco, tom mentions the wine we've been given, a couple bottles, and the border gaurd waves us on. it's french canada we're heading into and tom and I jokingly conjecture that this helps smooth the way - wine, of course gentlemen, pass on through! we head into montreal and it's chilly, and the signs are in french. it takes a while to get used to the arret (stop) signs, even thought they're red and shaped like u.s. stop signs. it takes a two bridge loop to get to where we need to go and my shoulders are tightening up like a crossbow.

 we load in at jailhouse rock, our club. dan, our promoter and an old friend of watt's, takes us to dinner at an indian restaurant. I have curry specific to a region in india that makes stuff very hot and the waiter warns me as to it's kelvin rating. I'm all for as hot as they make it, and when it comes, it is very very hot and I am way into it. it's delicious. all the food is - we share various vegetable dishes and eat chutney and yogurt/cucumber with everything.
dan describes a website with various artists and musicians making their wares available in a collective, fight the corporate machinery way and it sounds great. a good man, dan, great to have met you and hope to see you again soon.

 the gig is great. alex, the sound man, has mini-equipment, little tiny monitors and such, but he is very capable and gets a great sound. the french canadians are singing "engine room" in their french accents before we come on, very heartening and fun. the band is together. during "cliffs", a girl at 11 o'clock keeps saying loudly in a monotone chant "look at me, look at me" in every gap in the tune. weird, but cool in a way. we meet randy, a fellow in a ball cap who enjoys his beer and who digs the show and is full of good will. I bum canadian demaurier cigarettes from him, which I like a lot. he is happy to oblige.

 we stay with a montreal writer/student and his student roomates. they are bright, conversational and hospitable. but soon we conk.

from watt:

 pop and do diary. aron makes us chow and it's good. he's excited about moving where there's no snow in the winter. I spent a couple years here nearby in balston spa while my pop was being trained in the nuke navy in the early sixties. I remember the winters w/the sixteen foot snowdrifts. beautiful country though, the adirondacks. we thank aron and wish him and his band mates good luck, then head north for the border. next gig: montreal, quebec.

 the clouds look very gray and heavy, snow is looming but luckily it holds off. the canadian border folks are real nice and we get across w/no probs. we get into town after a blow-by that sends us back across the cartier bridge but we get to go back a second time and see it the other way. lemonade out of lemons. we're playing the _jailhouse rock_ club which is new for me. real nice folks there, don, alex, nancy and robin. great peeps that make us feel very much at home. thank you, northern neighbors! I'm proud to be their guest and have me and the pliers play for them. dan webster, an old bud who's done many of my shows here comes and takes us to eat indian chow. great chow too, I have livers and spinich. dan talks about his new project w/the web and bringing artists together and we have an intense talk about the old and new ways art comes into folks lives and the forces that are trying to wrangle and crimp it. I get emotional when I think of the prison mentality some of these fuckers who want to own everything and are trying to put toll booths up every place where's there's a free exchange of ideas. they are so afraid of an open, level field. just like commercial radio or tv or films - like everything, turned into cynical so called consumer-oriented shit. nothing but contempt for the cat just trying to make sense and journey on a mission to find themselves and where they interact for the greater good. peckers always on the make for the scam. dan knows how to articulate this well and frames it good in terms of the 'puters and web connects. new machines, same old fight. folks can make a difference though. it is not hopeless, surely not humorless.

 this great indian chow makes me konk long and hard and it's good. however, I miss the opening band, _gregor hashimoto_ but I get to talk to him after and he gives me a photo of his two cats. he's read a story about me losing my man. very sweet of him. the pad is packed w/high emotion in the crowd. a joy to hear "in the engine room" being sung in french accents before we go on. the gig is really good, what a bounce-back from last night. alex does a great job w/the sound and we play every song we know for the folks, who won't let us leave the stage. we even try "helpless dancer" and fuck that one up bad but no matter, we do a good "piss bottle man" to make up for it. after we're done, folks just pile into the dressing room to talk to me or shake my hand and it's a real happy time. a lot of joy in the house, for sure! a cat named john, who interviewed me earlier for a weekly earlier, invites us to konk at his pad and we pack but leave the van here in the garage for safety. we walk the streets of montreal to his pad at two in the morning but it's safe, much different than my home town.

 when we get to john's pad, we rap w/his room mates and him for a while about shit going on. it's a happening, lively talk. one cat says his pop gave a talk (he's a teacher) on the situation in pakistan right now and a kid asked "what can we do?" and he said you have to start small and just try to get something going on your own level. small wheels inside of big wheels. you can keep it more honest by working in your art or craft in it's terms and reaching out like that then just becoming a pawn w/out a self. we all have to be doers in our own way and not just wear the shit on our sleeves like an invite to some party cuz it ain't no fucking party. party is a state of mind you visit from time to time but you know how the best ones are, they happen naturally. you have to step back far enough to get a good laugh in too, it's the only way to get creative, to see the forest for the trees. lots of personal journeys can only add to the quilt, making it more rich and spangled. they (or we) can't kill the good ideas, only try to stomp them down or make you feel ashamed. if you don't feel fake, why put up w/the shit that wants to make you that way? the cost is too high, the time too short. folks are waking up but for this idiot on bass, he is too tired for more and after some good home made minestrone, courtesy of john, I am out and bound for sleepytown.

sunday, october 24 - ottawa, on, canada

from tom:

 the weather stays gloomy and seems even colder than montreal when we roll in about three. vince and I immediately seek warmth in a small tavern nearby. the celtic cross is your typical irish sports pub with boddingtons on tap which I oblige myself with before ordering the fish and chips. the food came and it proves to be satisfying in every way on a cold fall day.

 we stay close to the club waiting to get in and shortly thereafter do. zaphods 2 is a good sized space with fine sound and by the time the local band laguna are done playing theres a nice crowd too. our set is getting pretty tuned in now and the people are getting into it and that really makes it all worthwhile for us.

from vince:

 when we make up, a young lady we hadn't met the night before makes great waffles for breakfast. what a treat. but we're off to ottowa. I drive. we arrive early as is our custom. tom and I head to a pub for grum per mike's suggestion. I have steak and kidney pie with mashed potatoes and green beans. it's the best such pie I've ever tasted - watt was right on the mark. the pastry is flaky but substantial and the steak, kidney and gravy were outtasight. the green beans, actually green and yellow wax beans were cooked perfectly - a little crisp and full of flavor. the mashed spuds had great consistency with a few lumps that made you realize you were eating real potatoes and not some reconstituted mash gruel. the gravy on the spuds was the same as the rest - great. what a meal. hearty and just right for the punishing cold we're experiencing for the first time on the trip. tom has fish and chips that I taste and that are just as good as what I'm having. awesome. how's that for a cali adjective?

 sound check. our sound man is very good, he instills confidence that the show will sound good and be smooth on his end. and, as seems to be a pattern in canada, he is courteous, smart, and cheerful. I dig our neighbors to the north and am happy and proud to meet and get to know them. so sound check is quick quick quick, the way we love it. the band we're playing with is arriving as we finish and scott, the drummer, recommends the iron wood cafe across the street and after a bit I go over there for some more great food - roast vegetable salad and creamed cauliflower soup with great bread and butter and good coffee and raspberry juice. good food on this trip, you notice?

 the gig goes good. laguna is cool and the fact that the guys were very cool people draws me into their personable style all the more. oh yeah - I bought another headset mic in rehobeth beach and it's great to have it back. randy is there again, front row as before, cheering us on, with a little bit of good natured heckling and a glass of beer in hand. a few, perhaps. Eugene, the owner of the legendary beetlebrox, where we're playing, is very friendly, funny and good spirited and says he enjoyed the show. the laguna's give us t-shirts which we seem to be wearing a lot after gigs (the dry after gig-wear). afterward, it's over to the pad of some more gracious local students and it's time to crash.

from watt:

 pop and then me and tom go to get the boat which is still at the club. get to walk down some montreal streets w/good weather now and the town looks beautiful. I think here is the most european of cities in north american. even the pad we stayed in last night was like that w/lots of angles in the place and the toilet and tub in seperate rooms, neat wrought-iron balconies and railings. I dig it. we get the boat and come back to some homemade waffles, thank you! thanks for the weather too, it's cold but at least it's not doing what the weather people predicted, snowing. we're in luck, surely.

 I haven't played ottawa in fifteen years but the cat who put on my gig all those years ago, eugene, is still in action and he's doing my show tonight at _zaphod beeblebrox 2_. a local band called _laguna_ is opening. it's as cold as a motherfucker outside. I mean really fucking cold, most bitter of the tour. I make it down the street a few doors and get a pita, it's good. the fucking cold is a wet cold and that shit cuts right through to my bones and into the joints. I am crippled by it. no way will I be able to konk in the boat before the gig, it'll be like an ice can. damn. instead, when we finish soundcheck, I konk in the little room at the side of the stage, chest down and staring right into the deck w/the mask over the eyes. my whole body aches bad but I'm tired and konk deep despite the openers blasting away. I like the way their sound felt through the deck. next, it's our turn and I try to shake my hands out and get this job on the way. fifteen years away and I gotta rebuild here but the crowd is spirited and my pliers play great, really good. much respect, tom and vince. the sails are taunt yet we're relaxed and there's a flow like the set is one big song, tune melding into tune. we get a bunch of encores and there's a great feel in the room. I tell the folks I love playing government towns (ottawa is the capitol of canada) and having my say. I thank them for having an open mind, being nice neighbors and letting us be guests in their land. thank you all much, true north: canada. also, paul did a great job w/the sound.

 time to do the business and me and eugene have a big talk about the current state of affairs. he grew up in calcutta (in india) and listened to shortwave as a kid. he tells me that when an international incident went down, it was funny to hear all the angles each news service (bbc, abc, voa, radio moscow, radio beijing, radio pyongyang, etc...) would spin. I tell him how now in the states most towns have just one newspaper now and maybe that's even funnier. or sadder, huh? back in l.a. we have two news radio stations on the am band and they're owned by the same company. I tell eugene I will not wait another fifteen years to play his town. the cats in the opening band take a picture w/me, good vibes all over. I even accept a t-shirt they give me which is a trip cuz I mainly just like shirts w/buttons. two pockets too, I'm one particular fucking idiot.

 this cat chad, who had a bud named gord see us in albany, offers his pad to konk tonight. very nice of him. there's a big corner angled couch and me and tom share that. they got peanut butter so vince starts on that. womb-like under the blanky, it's more than easy for watt to just drop right off into konksville.

monday, october 25 - toronto, on, canada

from tom:

 the legendary horseshoe tavern is a cool bar and club room on a trendy strip in the middle of town called queen st. toronto is an extremely beautiful metropolis and mike and I score some killer noodles nearby and I sample the bubble tea (fish egg-like tapioca balls in the bottom of a kind of thai ice tea). I dont know if I like it but the straw is big enough to make a small flute so it wasnt a loss.

 the first band have some great guitar work that reminds me of soft boys or t-rex but I think it might have been influenced by more recent brit-pop bands that I am not familiar with. I like it even though I'm stuck backtage typing again, you know it must be done.

 the great people at the club keep the whole night moving really smoothly. a good sized crowd fills up the room and put the show up there as one of my favorites so far and we play very well as a result. not to mention nice dudes aaron and jeff who then house us to our extreme gratitude. thanks thackery and chodeby!

from vince:

 when we wake up, aaron has prepared breakfast: juice, bacon, eggs, toast and sinkers. muchas gracias, compadre, it is so much help to get chow in the a.m. most gracious and most appreciated. up and out, early. we get to the club in the afternoon and I walk up and down the streets. toronto is sort of the new york city of canada. I buy red gaffers tape to strike my stage setup with and muffle ringing toms, and look for some shades (I donated my last pair along the way). I grab a couple slices of "gourmet" pizza that, despite their pedigree, are a little lacking. I go to a bank for some currency exchange, then get some java. triple short capp. hi octane. it's a bright beautiful sunny day in toronto, perfect for walking around. there's a great cultural mix in evidence and a lot of different strata of folk walking the streets.

 when I get back, it's load in and sound check. kippy, our sound man, is very friendly. errin, who I've "conversed" with on the e-mail shows up. he tapes and collects watt shows going back to the minutemen. his bud jeff, the anacho-syndicalist is there two and we get to cutting up fast. tom, the young canadians and myself head over to get some chinese food. errin and jeff had warned us how much food was served and how good it was, but I wasn't ready for it. every dish we ordered, chinese greens with oyster sauce, noodles with shrimp and squid, pork in black bean sauce, etc., was served on huge platters and it was some of the best chinese food I've ever had. errin catches right on to the van banter, at this point involving the characters thackery and chodeby, who happen to be riding with us now, as well as a vein-popping apoplectic buddy rich. farm boy and farm daddy are dormant, or perhaps gone. anyway, errin chimes right in with his version, a dissipated corrupt old-money upper-cruster distaining the hoi-polloi. but that's not all, at one point mike asks him a question, to which he, ordinarally a courteous, polite, well-spoken fellow, replies, gruffly, "blow it out your ass!". he's on the boat now. I think we'd told him the st. lou story. jeff watches all this, looking bemused. his comments are not in character as most of ours are, but are dry, astute and funny. we all hit it off quick.

 randy is there when we get back. he has become another team member in a way - audience compadre randy. the band opening up (see other team members for name) were pretty good, recalling television a little bit with their guitar sounds and playing, but with a sort of vocal-heavy anthemic thing that seems to be particular to what I've seen in canada. not the liars so much or laguna. the liars were more like the sonics and laguna kind of like...well, bands I hear when I hear other peoples radios...I have to admit I'm not up to date on contemporary rock/alt/pop. when I go to the CD/record store, it's always the used and I head first over to the jazz to see what dexter gordon, john coltrane, sonny stitt, gene ammons, elvin jones, david murray, art blakey, cannonball adderley, henry threadgill, johnny griffin, zoot sims, ornette coleman, I can afford, and then over to check out the mozart, beethoven, bartok (getting into string quartets on those three cats lately), ligeti and debussy. I want to get a lot more varese and stockhausen and haven't scratched the surface on people like schoenberg, mel powell and a million others. same with the avante stuff, which I totally dig. I just have some pharoah, muhal r.a., chicago art ensemble and like that but my pals in l.a. in guns books and tools, the sherpa's and so on are always coming up with a cd they play for me of someone I haven't heard that totally blows my mind. well anyway, so I'm stupidly ignorant of a lot of contemporary sounds and bands that I ought to know more about and I intend to educate myself and enjoy some art that people are making right now on records and in the clubs. I've been too...what's the word? parochial? provincial? whatever it is, that's me. but no more. on to the enlightened era. bring on the epiphany. what was I saying? oh - that's what you're asking me. well, anyway, I liked the first band. they were, as we're learning is typical for canadians we meet, good folks as well.

 my friend trisha is there when we get back as well. she's visiting her friend michel, who lives in toronto. she met him while traveling through new york before and it's my good fortune that she's visiting him while we're in town because I dig hanging with trish. so I buy her a guiness and we hang a little bit and she see's the show.

 the show goes well, despite some vexing feedback. randy is shouting, and people are into it. I blow a couple clams and feel crummy in the first part, and play a middlin' solo off the bat in ggdd, but I think I recover ok. as I say, it's good over-all. randy is way into it, errin and jeff are enthusiastic about it, and trisha, who saw us in san francisco, says she hears a lot of improvement, and she liked the sf show a lot. right on, people. we can always use the encouraging words. I know I can.

 we load up the van. trisha dissapears into the night en route to michel's, and we head over to errin and jeff's, where we meet errin's cat engels. we rap, we crash.

from watt:

 oh boy, this couch was way too spongy and my back's killing me. the first time on this tour too. that's why I'm usually on the deck. I can handle a firm couch but not beanbag world. damn. gotta walk this shit off. into the shower and then outside to hoof. the weather is sunny and much warmer than yesterday and I go for about an hour. aarrrrggghhhh. get back to the boat and head southwest to toronto. all gigs now will be more south than the one before. good thing, winter's coming on fast.

 we get to toronto early and it's warm and clear, like cali weather. this is the big town for canada and it's sort of like nyc crossed w/san fran w/out the hills. great walking down the streets w/tom. we chow at a noodle house and I have some soup w/shanghai noodles and salmon in it that kicks my ass. tom gets some "bubble tea" which is tea w/big balls of tapioca in the bottom that you suck up w/a wide-ass straw. funky. these chuck taylors I got on are pretty much worn so I get a pair a couple of doors down. I don't put them on, I'll wait until these I got on fall off. no wine before it's time.

 I've never played this pad before, the _legendary horseshoe tavern_ but signs are good it's a happening place. the boss jeff is really pumped to have me here and is talking all about how he dug having _frank black_ here and the way he loaded his own gear and stuff like that. you can tell he's from the old days and likes getting lit on the old spirit. his assistants too are great and it's not just some fucking rock and roll hustle but kind of like a family. elliott, my old friend who's done my gigs in this town for years comes by to say hi and that's great too. watt's heart's all bubbled over w/the warmness. this is good and I go to the boat to konk happy.

 I miss the opening act, which has a cat named john from the band _13 engines_ but I get to meet all the cats in the band and they're very happening. different up here w/these opening acts compared to some of the pop bands who've opened for me in the states. these canadian cats are very open and even though their music is much different, they have no trouble making friends and rapping w/me. some of the bands on the other side of the border don't even say one fucking word to me, like they just got on the bill cuz they knew the promoter or something. fucking mercenary. what kind of spirit comes out of that? careering? "see you, mate - yeah, see you mate. we'll be taking it up to another level soon so fuck you." what a bunch of bullshit. why do you have to play the same style of music to relate as human beings? is that how genre driven these times are? I thought style was up to each band as a sign of some kind of independence, not aloof, rock star, tons of 'tude shit. there's lots of nice cats in our land too forging out there own sound but it only takes a couple of fucking shite bands to really stick in your mind. anyway, these cats in john's band and john himself are great. thanks much for the affirmation. much, much respect.

 all fired up, we play a good set, though not as tight as the last two nights, still good. I ask vince to relax in the middle of things cuz I can tell he's getting a little tensed up. he's still kicking it out pretty good. tom's playing great and it's fun watching him go. the crowd is way into it and we do a bunch of encores. good, good feel in the house. kit (or kip) did a great job w/the monitors too. what more can I ask for? watt's a lucky man. one cat after the show gives me a spoon he's carved out of wood. it's left handed but that's all right, I'll learn to chow soup w/that hand. watt mothsized too, it must hold a fucking pint.

 erinn, a cat who runs an archive of my live shows for trading on the web invites us over to konk. he's a little west in parkdale. he's a very interesting cat and fully into revolution. not retard knee-jerk versions of it either. just about to konk and then me and tom have a talk about the dynamics in the middle section of "drove up from pedro." I'm describing how we can make the quiet part "real loud" by foaming it up hard right before w/snap it off at the end of the guitar solo. erinn hears us and comes in (I think I said "jeff beck" and this woke him up) and I rap a little more before sueno takes me. the back feels great on the deck, no curve promoting softness here. tom's sucking the paint off the walls w/his snoring has no effect even. nighty night and sweet suenos.

read week 4 of the tour diary

read week 6 of the tour diary

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this page created 6 nov 99