"puttin' the opera to bed" tour diary - week 4

monday, october 12, 1998 - northampton, ma

from bob lee:

   the iron horse tavern is a bit uptight, more of a supper club suited to the likes of richard thompson or strunz and farah than a bunch of dirty punks like us. unlike everywhere else on the tour, we get no liquor and I am nearly unable to add j mascis to our guest list because we are limited to ten guests. annoying, but nothing like the geraldine fibbers' gig here last year, whch I bet nels elucidates on in his section of this document. in spite of this the show is pretty good, really good set from scrawl, nice to see byron coley again, as well as mr. mascis. we go check out j's new band wank factor 7 & rising at the bayshore bar & grill around the corner. unlike the trio gigs they did with us earlier this year, the new lineup boasts a singer and second keyboardist, and j's playing drums. they remind me of la's carnage asada, fluctuating between song form and freakout. we stay at j's country home, a gorgeous place out in the woods, and his dog bob uses all of us for space heaters at various points in the night.

from steve reed:

   j's town. great sounding show for both scrawl and the gang. after show saw j perfoming in wank factor seven. he was playing drums. very good drummer. stayed at j's that night out in the woods. very beautiful, in his house - we weren't camping out in his yard.

from watt:

   ok, unlike last tour where we thought we could shave off some miles by going straight through the nyc area, this time we'll do what we've always done when we wanted to get to new england from phily, we head for the motherfucking tappan zee bridge north of yonkers to cross the mighty hudson. we do good, hitting no plugs and making northampton in five and a half hours. beats the hell out the over eight we did last tour after my asshole brainstorm. sometimes it's good to stick w/what you know. sometimes.

   we're playing a pad called "the iron horse" which is somewhere I've never done before. played this town many, many times but never here. kim and thurst now live around here, they want to raise coco out here. byron coley lives out here too, I hope he can come. of course j's from here and he shows up at soundcheck to tell us he's playing w/his bud curt's _wank factor seven_. they're gonna play after us so he'll come see us and then we'll go see him. it's so good to see him, I really dig him. he's got a great spirit and he cracks me up. murph (his old drummer) comes by too. all right, lots of old friends.

   _scrawl_ is great and really gets me motivated to do tonight's take on the opera. there's lots of chairs and tables and there's also a balcony. I'm kind of scared of the gig a little cuz of nels' horror stories of this pad w/the fibbers but everything runs smooth. cuz of the high roof and tin cieling, my spiel comes off the stage and into the room big time. it makes things really easy voice-wise. the piece goes good as does the songs after. the crowd is really into some of our versions of old faves and we play a good long time but since the show started at ten, we're done by midnight. we pack up and head over a couple blocks the "bay state" pad where j is playing. he's on drums and louise (his lady friend) is playing a george duke style synth! they got a singer too. much different than when I did those three gigs w/them last tour. I dig them and sit there in front of the band and listen. it's like a hotel lobby and the band is set up right on the rug w/red hankies on the wall lamps. it's a trip. j plays lots of drum licks and sounds geat. his drum set has no shells, just heads! it all fits into one big bag. they're called "purecussion." what a mindblow. they get done and we follow j over to his pad in the woods. it's great to see his bulldog _bob_ again. he was only a tiny puppy and now he's a great big man but still very happy and very loving. we talk a while but I'm just blasted w/tiredness and have to konk. I head downstairs and sleep on the foot of the steps. it's a little bit cold but then I'm warmed up. warmed up by what? bob, of course, that big heater.

tuesday, october 13, 1998 - portland, me

from bob lee:

   I always enjoy playing here at the stonecoast brewery, but unfortunately someone fucked up our ad and listed the show as a $15 ticket, 21 and over, and there is a fairly small turnout compared to the last gig which was $8, 18 and over. well anyway I played some great games of pinball and we played well for those that showed. team new england is upset to discover that there is a problem with their dat recorder and the three gigs they taped are all distorted. arrgh, the best laid plans... better luck next time.

from steve reed:

   we had a bigger crowd last time because it was cheaper to get in. the show sounded great. mike whitaker came to the show and we had a little motel-6 party. I have pictures. weather getting cold up here in the northeast.

from watt:

   j's gotta bail early to do this big golf thing he's been doing every year. just by coincidence the day after the day the tour ends (november fifteen) j's gonna be in san ramon to be w/ammachi, a lady he's been checking out spiritually. he tells me I should have a look see. we say bye and then me and my cats head out for the next gig in portland, maine. the drive is righteous w/steve reed snapping shots all over the place. man, what a painting nature does up here when it comes to fall up in these parts. damn. funny thing going through new hampshire and seeing those freeway signs (not billboards) for the state liquor store. steve reed snaps those too. finally up the I-95 and the trees are lit up like bonfires - what fucking colors! the freeway signs here in maine are pretty unique also cuz they say "lobster available." ha ha, these united states!

   we're at the "stone coast brewery" where we just played five months ago. it's starting to get cold up here so I gotta use blankets to konk before the gig tonight. things change even quicker when you're moving too. you know the drill, I get up right before the gig and hit the stage. this must be the smallest crowd of the tour, like fifty or sixty folks but fuck it, I'm playing my heart out as does my team and it makes me feel good. the cats that are there are very supportive and we give a good delivery on the piece. the ecores are fun too and we cut no shorts. one's life as one who rolls from town to town is made of many hills and valleys and they're all tests to check your focus and your commitment. it's times like these when you gotta double up and not cower. when we finish, us and the scrawls have a little get together at the mo-six and have lots of laughs. then it's konk time for watt, I gotta change the van's (boat's) oil in the morning.

wednesday, october 14, 1998 - cambridge, ma

from bob lee:

   well I discovered my china cymbal is badly cracked last night, luckily the gus at guitar center in boston are pals with jason from jack drag & they hook me up a good deal on a new, much louder one. I hate breaking shit but love shopping for replacements! tt the bear's is where I saw firehose for the first time in 1987, had to walk two hours home cos the subways stop running at 1am, a bad idea I think, what better incentive to drink and drive, especially in a town whee most car owners take the subways anyway? nice to see the dragsters again, I go over to joe's for a little pre-gig party, then head over to the gig with them & some of their pals. really good, spirited audience tonight, unfortunately the action slows down after mike's bass amp blows up, and it takes everyone a few minutes to remember that we are travelling with a backup amp! but we're back at it in short order, and the overall vibe is very good. joe has bought some knob creek bourbon for the after-party and we spiel into the wee hours at his apartment.

from steve reed:

   small but mighty. great turnout and my friend tony came to the show. jack drag was in attendance and so was trona. mike had amp troubles but the spare worked fine. we stayed at joe's (from jack drag) apartment. he has the greatest bass collection ever.

from watt:

   pop up early and get the van's oil changed. I find a crack in the windshield starting at the top. some motherfucking truck w/out it's load tarpped probably threw out a stone and got us. watch this little crack spiderweb out and eat up the whole glass. it's happened before. damn, why can't these cats tarp their load?! we'll see how long it lasts. there's a sticking lifter too making the motor sound like a sewing machine. hang on, boat - I love you and will take care of everything once we get back to pedro. just get us through the rest of the tour. I love you, boat.

   short leap to boston and we stop at the shit-hard center (guitar center) to get bob lee a new china cymbal. his just cracked. damn. nels is bugging at the prices of the old guitars they got there but I tell him "what do you expect, it's the shit-hard center." funny thing is this is where joe baiza got his jazzmaster (a white '69 for a thousand $) almost exactly one year ago. good hunting for joe baiza, especially in a place like this. I get some batteries for a little flashlight we keep up front in the van (boat) at the radio shack down the street but one of the batteries shorts and starts melting up the flashlight. can you believe this? watch getting batteries from that pad. ruined the little light for good. lucky thing I smelled it burning up, the bastard even burned my hand a little. damn.

   it's drizzling rain and getting cold. cross the charles into cambridge and pull right up in front of "t.t.'s the bear," the site of tonight's gig. I last played here nine years ago w/fIREHOSE. a lady named bonnie owns it and a lady named randi books it. cool peeps. randi let's me do 'puter work in the office so I got phone access - sometimes it's so hard to get jacked into the net cuz a lot of phones are hardwired to the wall old school. that's why these diaries can be late in coming - I just can't get any access. it's been like that for a few days now but I can surely flow today. I ask her about the local scene and booking a pad in a town like this and how many yuks and howls that can bring. all the strut, all the swagger and all the pomp. the big deals coming in and bringing their "up and coming" while other cats are just trying to put together units that have an original sound or take on the whole thing. the deep beneath the shallow, the hard against the hollow - it seems it's always coming down to that, huh? she's into beanie babies too (oops! wasn't supposed to tell that).

   the man there cooks us up some great chow (good gig chow is pasta and salad and there's lots of this) and w/some of that in me, I head for the van (boat) and sleepy town. it's a matter of moments (in my mind) but the hours past and I hear _scrawl_ coming through the walls. I hear there last few songs and then ready myself: put the c-taylors back on my feet, latch the llaves to the belt, put on the dinosaur hat, get some cards w/the tour schedule and put them in the back pocket, fold up the blankies (truck stop indian ones) and then get the bag of shirts along w/the bass (thud staff), make sure the van (boat) is secured and then head in. I like going right on stage from the sleep cuz it reflects the cycle of the opera which begins at daybreak, just when you're waking up. I'm still kind of dreamy w/yellow stuff in my eye, red crease lines on my face from the van bench seat and hair all stuck up and matted. I slowly come to a rise and wake through the songs like it was really happening (well fuck, it is!) that way. this gig is a big swelter. great crowd but there's a big broist w/the heat. we play really well, sometimes heat does that to you but I sweat my enitre outfit. damn, I didn't bring my fan (it's back in pedro) cuz I thought it was fucking fall (it is)! we get done w/the piece and I'm so proud of these cats I'm up here with and the crowd for having the open mind to let us do this for them. I break a string in "liberty calls!" and change it while the song is still going. haven't broke that many strings this tour but w/the big piece, I don't want to break the flow but I still take the risks and play hard when the emotion is up there. what I try to do now is play w/a few fingers together to lessen the attack of my fucking divebombs. it's been working ok so far but every now and then the shit just gives way and snaps, usually at the bridge. tom verlaine is playing next door at the middle east but the actual stage is a bowling alley right under us! I want to play the two television songs we do for him but in "little johnny jewel," my amp just seizes and is kaput. damn. I panic and ask steve reed for a direct box and then remember "what the fuck, we've been carrying this randall amp around for three tours just for moments like this" and head right out the door to the van (boat) and retrieve it. what an idiot watt is. I gotta tell steve reed how sorry I am for being such an asshole, I treasure this man so. there's no one like him. it's not his fault I got fucking alzheimers. anyway, this two hundred-thirty dollar randall amp I bought in seattle comes to the rescue and saves the day. sounds ok too. we get through some more tunes and then it's closing time so we quit. we're packing up and I gotta move outside and sling shirts cuz the soundman wants to get his shit packed up and bail. ok. outside by the van I sling shirts and rap w/the folks and someone gives me a silver anchor on a small chain that goes around your neck. I put it on. watt wearing jewelry, what a trip. the owner bonnie comes by and I say hi, haven't seen her since I last played. I tell her about the last gig here when I had that alembic bass I bought from the docks for a hundred bucks and then had bubba paint green and cut the top of the headstock off cuz the shit was too top heavy. turns out it was celtic green and the gig we were doing at t.t.'s those nine years ago was for our "james worthy tour" so I make a crack about the celts before we play, holding up that bass (it was a trip - I was actually bring two basses along that tour, something I never do) when what happens? the _d_ string pops off, just like that. damn.

   we pack up and head for joe from jack drag's pad which is only a matter of blocks away. joe plays bass in the band and he has lots of neat music stuff and a righteous apartment. old style. he's a got a very down fender telecaste bass. I dig it big time. I think of my old white one w/the kira and madonna pictures on it that got stolen back in pedro when peckers broke into my apartment while I was out on tour in the fall of '95. damn. he's also got some knob creek bourbon which is happening too. we revel and then I have to konk after a little while, not before I meet his cat which is righteous also, purring like a motor kitty, lulling this wattster to sleep.

thursday, october 15, 1998 - providence, ri

from nels cline:

   Each day in the van begins with a little ritual: Watt sprays 2 squirts of peach air freshener and marks off the previous night's gig on his itinerary taped to the ceiling over his seat - "And then, they left!". Usually we end up driving and trying to find something to eat at the truck stop - a very difficult endeavor for yours truly since I don't eat that much prefab stuff (not a sugar fiend, and I know about hydrogenated oils and such), and even the coffee sucks. But for all road dogs there has been created that little corner of custom cuisine - now in so many truckstops- known as SUBWAY. That's right! On tour w/ the Fibbers the veggie sub and such became a godsend for the poor roughage-deprived soul. But then there are those heinous corn chip & peanut kind of days...UGH!

   Before I catch up, some tiny items :

   Pet peeve: clubs with no private toilet stalls or, even worse, no toilet paper. As though the only people to use the bathroom are alcohol-soaked lizards who just need that wall to pee on! You get out of the van after, say, a 5 hour holdin-it-in stretch and YOU CAN'T EVEN POOP! Invade the women's facilities and: SAME THING! THE HORROR!!! Anyway, that sucks.

   Another pet peeve: OK, so almost half the clubs (especially in certain regions) ignore our minimal rider (water, Heineken, Jim Beam, chips, salsa that will singe your ass), but sometimes there's just NO WATER. I get up to sweat out another couple of pounds and NO WATER. Alright, enough whining - actually, I'm sure there will be more.

   The gig in Pensacola was a major sweatbath and the audience was, as Watt pointed out, too hip for their own room. My pickups, soaked w/ sweat, went dull for the first time since the '95 tours. This because I didn't have my polyeser/long-sleeved thing going (my uniform for the tour- keeps a lot of the sweat off of the guitar, and then I just wash the shirt in the sink and - voila!- drip dry! Young man Chris and his dad made it nice, but it felt like a struggle as more than once I almost fell on my ass slipping around in my own ooze. Watt ended up in a prolonged hang, so I called sweetheart from a pay phone in the middle of town which was surreal: about 85 degrees at 4AM and totally deserted. We finally left having at least made up for the missed gig.

   Athens, the 40 Watt: It's always a treat to play Athens. The 40 Watt is cool. You get to see Todd and the guys at Low Yo Yo Stuff record shop (sold him some of my stuff - always a good thing), and it's just damn pretty there. It dawned on me as we entered town that the last time I was there w/ the Fibbers was when I found out that my friend/teacher/musical soul mate Eric von Essen had died, and I got blue for a bit (I miss you, Eric), but as I say, Athens is nice. Had some middle-eastern food (the restaurant was playing the new Cat Power), and it pissed rain - a running feature of this tour. We were joined by Trona, a band from Boston, who played indie-boy songs. I liked their opening song,"Dumb". Nice fellows. The set was kind of rough at first. It started w/ one of my OTHER pet peeves: zero stage light. I may have been playing for longer than most of our audience have been alive, but the old man's gotta LOOK once in a while!!! Asked for light, got it, set improved. The audience seemed totally blown away afterwards - really. Jaws agape, that sort of thing. That's nice... Stayed at the owner's AMAZING house - and I mean BEAUTIFUL. Room after room of fabulous furniture, art musical equipment, rugs, ...blah blah blah. Even the shower head was ABOVE MY HEAD! Watt woke up the next morning in gastronomic hell - must have been the boiled peanuts and pork cracklins he ate the day before (!!!!). Left in the rain (natch).

   I love the south when it's green and mild. The fall colors encroaching on the verdant mystery of so many vines, creeks, swamps. Played the Cat's Cradle (Chapel Hill, of course). Bought my sailor suit for Halloween - wool! I'll perish! Also got a pair of dangly bat clip-on earrings (yeah, I know...). Show was opened by Daddy: LOUD and rather intense. As they played to a sparse crowd it began to pour - more precipitation to insure that we feel comfy! Trona played as the Red Corvair Trio and did original but too familiar surf/spy/rockabilly-esque instrumentals. Didn't enthrall Watt and the crew at all, but the guitarist did some effective twang on his strat. And it went over prettywell w/ the crowd. An amazing thing happened: Ed Crawford showed up and hung w/ Watt, ending a nearly 4 year cold spell of NO communication and bad blood. Wondrous! He looks good (like a farmer). Sat in on 'The Red and the Black'!!! Played all Tele-twanged out, all the solos, and sang on mike w/ Watt. Praise be! It was great. Stayed w/ Mac (Superchunk) and Andera's house outside of town. More Southern-style comfort and warmth. I didn't know that Mac is a total free jazz freak and has released several fine discs on his own label - not Merge, home of Guv'ner and Polvo - but another one (forgot the name). Even has a Wadada Leo Smith disc! So we jawed till well past 5AM. Watt got damn happy and a bit tipsy. Andrea and I also had a real nice chat. Great people w/ a nice pad in beautiful woods w/cool cats, boss books, and righteous records. Makes me think about the kind of fabulous life that sweetheart and I could aspire to having together someday... Slept in my clothes on the couch for a few hours, left for Charlottesville,VA, feeling that meeting Mac for real completed a circuit of some kind.

   OK, I've got to hurry - BEAUTIFUL drive to Charlottesville. Played at Tokyo Rose, a sushi restaurant w/ a performance space downstairs. Really nice folks, great food, and a new concert room run by a nice yong fellow named Aaron Hawkins. SCRAWL joined us for the first of many opening gigs. Great people, and Marcy is playing w/ a screwed up shoulder (getting over a broken collarbone) in obvious pain (guitar strapped around her waist) - a real trooper! Their music is that sort of folk rock gone louder and a bit more meaty. Marcy and Sue (gtr + bass) sing and Dana holds down the drums. They've apparently been around for years (toured in '89 w/ fIREHOSE), had the major-label disappointment, soldier on. One could not tour w/ better folks (well, those Jack Drag boys are damn wonderful, too!). Anyway, our set was pretty unbelievable, w/ Watt, powered by sushi and his traditional nap, pulling Bob and me through a 2 1/2 hour set! As he changed a bass string during the encores he spieled a lot as the Beam and water took hold. It was wild! Probably his fave gig of the tour. Spent the night at Aaron's. He lives there w/ his mom and his girlfriend whose name escapes me now. Watt, Bob, Steve, and Aaron hit the outdoor jacuzzi (apparently Watt's first one ever!) while I washed my shirts, showered, talked on the phone (yeah yeah, sometimes 3 times a day...). Woke up to Aaron cooking us all omelets while his mom, Linda, served coffee and juice. More great folks, a good bed, and $$ saved.

   On the way to DC stopped at the Masons monument to Pres. Washington - a Watt tradition. Actually quite fascinating. Bought some arcane postcards. Into DC traffic was bad due to tons of road work. Watt did spiel for an NPR feature on Bob Mould. Then on to the Black Cat ) where I first heard the beloved Geraldine Fibbers live) for a good show. Saw the wonderful Chris "from Delaware" Lausch, who, as usual, gave me wacky items to play my guitars with. A toy shovel may be the prime score. It's always great to see this marvelous man, and he traveled w/ us - as he usually does for at least a show or two - to Philly. Also met Ian and Guy from Fugazi. Talked quite a bit w/ Ian whom, even though I was already predisposed to liking, I liked enormously. The Blak Cat is always cool, even though the shambles of our capitol city is always depressing. This was our last show w/ the Red Corvair Trio, and Scrawl played, too. Freezing air on my drenched bod in Charlottesville have left me w/ a bit of a cold, which started at this gig. Oh well...

   So you KNOW that we don't have any nights off. The tour is currently almost half over. I think we've done about 19 consecutive gigs so far. Next day off is in November. So it's a bit of a blur But tomorrow is NYC, my fave city, and my sweetheart is there waiting for me! I'm really missing her, kids. So tomorrow is going to be my favorite day... I'm a very lucky man. A year of heartache, the pain of love flown away, the fear of a new a wondrous world of love, finding... Lucky.

   Philly was pretty surreal. South Street is sort of Melrosed- out. Got to the Pontiac early - plenty of time to walk around feeling alienated (and, yes, to miss you-know-who). The Pontiac is really small, and it quite ironically turned out to be Jim Beam "Back Room Sessions" night, resplendent w/ BEAM GIRLS : Hooters-esque gals giving away JIm Beam shirts, hats, and CDs (mostly blues). Watt didn't even know about it! And he napped all the way through the embarrassment. At least some people through back the free swag! Scrawl went over well in spite of sound probs (feedback through the monitors) - the Beam Girls really liked them! The gig was really hard for me 'cause in addition to feeling ill I had NO room onstage. We were squeezed up there, and it was air behind me, monitor next to me, drums, amp, monitor... ack! No room for the wah wah... whine whimper. But the crowd was really into it - lots of old Watt fans - and for a total bar scene it was pretty quiet. In fact, the crowds have been quieter up north - the dynamics of the opera really challenge the MTV generation. Felt like death after the gig. Chris from Delaware took his leave as we headed north to...

   Portland, ME. My cherished friend, Carole Kim, wonderful alien fanboy Adamn Schutzman, the chilly drizzle (of course), and the Stone Coast Brewery. Sparse crowd, but after a nice phone call (yes yes) and seeing Adamn and Carole, I kind of WENT FOR IT. It felt good. Many stairs and much sweat and coughing later, we were out of there. It's gonna get cold there...

   Which show was it at which Watt changed a string during "Liberty Calls"? That was wild!...

   Last few shows have been taped by "Team New England", a couple of fans from Long Island named Fred and Dave. They'll be with us till Asbury Park.

   Boston: T.T. the Bear. Pissing rain. The Jack Drag boys - so fab. Steve and I went to visit Joe at his job at Cambridge music (good store, fortunately no fab gear) and got drenched trying to catch a cab. Jeez! Made it back sopping wet. Wonder of wonders, Tom Verlaine and Jimmy Ripp were playing next door at the Middle East!! Also: Windy and Carl. Caught them and then went to play. Windy and Carl played to a rapt crowd of about 18 young men. Windy sang for about 2 minutes and played bass (a bit in D major) then switched to guitar for a 35 minute dronefest in e minor. Carl plays a Jaguar (just like my main one at home) through a bunch of tap delay and verb in real stereo. I really appreciated their determinedly un-exciting performance - it felt nice. Tom and Jimmy played music much like Tom's "Warm and Cold" disc: little pieces. An "eastern" slide piece w/ echo-rhythm dobro, a hi-life groove, a jaunty Vespa waltz... Very charming, Tom on a Strat w/ lipstick case pickups. Talked to him for a sec - he remembered me, I told him that Watt had me playing Television covers, which he seemed genuinely flabbergasted by. Said he'd try to come by (never did). Our set was a bit of an ordeal. It was SO HOT! I felt really stiff and disengaged for the first 15 minutes or so - just feeling a might peaked and instantly drenched. Watt's amp melted down during "Little Johnny Jewel", which gave me a chance to switch guitars, as my Jazzmaster had gone dull. Watt finally got out to the van for his spare amp and hooked it up. He was all embarrassed and consequently got all grumpy, barking at Steve Reed, etc. etc. (I hate all that). But we resumed and played a long set. Got tired, but the potentially jaded crowd was really great, attentive. Some Fibbers fans, the insane local promoter and Fibbers fan Billy Ruane showered me with kisses and CDs, nice folk. Billy is a mess (note to Billy: Forget about Sidney. I've never met her because she's afraid to go out now). Anyway, nice folks all around. Stayed with Joe Klompus from Jack Drag in his and his absentee roommate's fab apt. Really beautiful, and Joe was the consummate host, providing hummus, salsa, beers, and Knob Hill for Watt ("this is GOOD WHISKEY!!"). Watt became his usual philosophical/ebullient self post-Knob, we looked at some of Joe's killer guitars & basses, and just had a great time. Slept in a sweet little back room, awoke to a beautiful partly cloudy Boston view (he's about 5 flights up).

   Before we left Joe hooked us up w/ some more l'il accesories for our gear and we made it here to Provdence. Scrawl are here, and also a band called Orbit. And it's damn chilly in here! Tomorrow at this time....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

   2 more topics:

      1. - Steve Reed. His life back home has unravelled in major proportions. He almost had to bail on the tour, but he is pushing ahead. I never read his diaries from last tour, but I know that several people were reduced to tears by them. So if you read those, it's an escalation of the same insanity. But he keeps focused, snapping endless pics, cataloguing them, doing sound, dealing w/ the load-outs, maps, etc. etc. He is stone sober on this tour, focused on getting on and upward with his life. He is one helluva man.

      2. - Bob Lee. He's a great drummer, a great roommate, he knows THOUSANDS of songs (lyrics, everything) of many periods and styles in the pop maelstrom, does funny voices, has a quietly sick sense of humor. Girls who already have boyfriends can't resist him. When you wake him up (at times a challenging task) he opens his blurry eyes with a tiny smile and goes, "Hmmmm?", in a guileless and adorable way. In short, the world must take notice of this fine manchild.

   More later.

from bob lee:

   tonight we are faced with one of the lamest opening bands yet, a trio that plays along to samples of their own songs. is it live or is it memorex? hard to say without looking, the samples are literally recordings of the same boring riffs they "really" play. pretty bad, and to make matters worse, the dressing room is right next to the stage so there's no escape. nels said "if it was two years ago and indie-rock bands going big-time wasn't totally over, I'd sign these guys! they can play in the style of every alt-rock band there is!" well guess what, they are in fact a&m recording artists! maybe mediocre corporate"indie" rock isn't really over, or else maybe a&m needs a tax break. luckily we have scrawl to wash the bad taste away. they are a little freaked because of the od-looking fellow who has been staring at sue all night, I promise to stand guard during their set to make sure no trouble ensues. none does, but I can see why they were unnerved by this guy, he reminds me of la's most famous girl band geek, arlan helm. like arlan, he seems harmless enough but would probably take a photo of the gals bending over every time the opportunity presented itself. creepy. I guess that's the price of beauty. dorky guy that I am, I will never have this problem! see, it pays to have a little perspective, any dorky guys who might be reading this. count your blessings. good gig, although the guys who keep hollering "mister watt!!!!" at the tops of their lungs during the quiet parts are a tad distracting. what is it that makes people do this? I once saw keith emerson play a solo piano piece while the guy next to me screamed "emersooooon! woooooooooo! yeah! do it! waaaaaahh!!!!" the whole time. I mean, if you like the sound of their own voice so well why don't ya start your own band? there's a great beefheart bootleg where some guy keeps yelling out stuff during the solo recitation of "orange claw hammer", like "the beeeef! yeah! pachuco cadaaaaaaaaaaver! woooh!" until don breaks character and says, "jesus, cut it out man! just shut up! I'm doing this thing now, just shut up and listen". mike is too much of a gentleman to do this, but it must be fucking tempting.

from steve reed:

   the house soundman, mike, was great to work with. I really like this person because he know the limitation of his sound system and he always tries to improve it. orbit opened the show. they sucked!! scrawl was great as usual and the gang turned it out. thanks, mike, for all your help.

from watt:

   since the only parking around joe's pad is permit parking, I pop early to move the van into a lot that's nearby to avoid a ticket. the sun is bright and the air is crisp. righteous. we tried to get the van into a parking structure pad last night but of course the clearance was much too low for the van (boat). damn, what a greedy thing to do just to get more cars in. peckers. we head on over to the music store where joe works so nels can buy an ac adapter for his _centurion_ distortion pedal. that motherfucker eats batteries quick so this is a good thing. his dachau can be so demanding but he loves fussing w/it so it's ok w/me. an hour drive and we're in providence but I search like ten stores for little fans (the ones folks use to clip to their cubicles in office situations) but nthing is found but a tiny table one. the same reason is given everywhere: "out of season." damn. the little table one turns out to work though, I just stuff it's base under the back of my amp case and it blows the cooling relief right into the back of the amp's blazing trasistors.

   this pad is called the "met cafe" and I played here a year ago when the opera was just getting going along w/hodges and joe baiza. it's a trip how the piece has been interpreted by overlapping teams that have made up the black gang. first there was hodges and joe baiza (I call this version only _the black gang crew_ in honor of hodges), then joe baiza and bob lee, then finally nels cline and bob lee. all three teams have been great and I'm a lucky man to work w/all these cats and very grateful for the sincerity and work ethic they bring to the opera. much thanks to all of them from watt to this big black gang. of course the one man who's been through all the version is that man who sits to my port, mr. steve reed, my lynch pin and pivot man - my rock and foundation for all these black gangs and all my tours of the last nine years. hear, hear and amen.

   we soundcheck and then I'm out like a light. again, as luck would have it, we're parked right out front so no worries. I'm sleeping off some big blast of habanero - that's right, some cat got us ten bright orange little flaming sons of bitches. how? I mean, these ain't from some can or jar - they're straight up fresh. there must be familia up here, huh? anyway, I blazed the shit up in a sandwhich and now I'm dreaming w/waves of heat radiating through my brain. hell, I could sleep naked w/all these flamables in the gullet. I wake up just in time to hear the last scrawl song so I commence my "get ready" ritual and head for the stage. there's great cats here to be w/us but there's also some loud-ass motherfuckers yammering away too. whatever, I hold focus. nels and bob lee beat it up good - they're not deterred in the slighteset. next door a disco beat is thumping through the door, I gotta laugh but still hold focus. it's all a test I tell myself, all a test. can I hold my resolve? "yes I can," I tell watt. the gig gets done and lots of cats are rapping w/me about the piece, "this is the payoff," I'm thinking. some cats who are way into this beer they want to brew called "dark log" are very emotional about the whole trip. one gives me his driver's license. why? I don't know. makes me think of when I first me the boss at the label, donny ienner, I gave him my license (it had just expired). maybe that's what you do sometimes when you don't know what to do. it seems that's what the hombres want to look at when they pull you over. maybe it's a subconscious thing. I give these cats two almost done bottles of chili sauce. one is _xxx yucateca_ (from mexico) and the other's _dave's total insanity sauce_ (from cali). not much left but they'll get the idea. no worries though cuz I got two bottles of dave's coming to jimbo's in nyc for tomorrow (one bottle is _dave's limited edition red savina sauce_, over 500,000 scoville units of heat - yes!). since carla's coming to see nels in nyc I want to get him to the big town early so we bail after saying adios to connecticut. I hate driving at night but I want to help nels, he's done so much for us. after an hour we get there and then out like a light, watt konks.

friday, october 16, 1998 - new york city, ny

from bob lee:

   last gig with scrawl, aww... I miss em already. mom is there again & she greatly enjoys the scrawlsters too. she remarks that it seems very progressive and empowering to see women in charge of their own band, writing their own stuff and enjoying life. I tell her that this is not that recent of a phenomenon, that the lilith fair is the biggest drawing summer festival now etc. and she is very encouraged by this. I once had an ongoing email debate with my friend jen about whether punk rock was inclusive towards women or not, she felt that punk was essentially macho and aggressive, still supporting the same backwards attitudes found in aerosmith lyrics, while it always seemed to me that punk was a big step forward for women who wanted a stage to perform, that you saw a lot more women musicians in punk bands, and more importantly, a lot more all-woman punk bands than you did in big rock. of course punk is diverse and contradictory enough that I can see both of our points now. I don't know how welcome I'd feel if I was petite girl at a d.r.i/ agnostic front gig, let alone a mentors gig, but maybe this sort of macho display is what led to the seemingly anti-male attitudes espoused by team dresch (who offerred a class in self defense against male aggression before their gig) and bikini kill. but are those attitudes truly anti-male or just self-defensive? and which is the "true" punk gig, bikini kill or the mentors? anyway I was hoping to see jen tonight but didn't see her in the crowd before we started and she had to bail before we finished. damn. anyway, glad you came! carla bozulich is in town and joins us for "drove up from pedro" and "tuff gnarl". we have a tearful goodbye with the scrawls, then off to jim dunbar's place ("jimbo's pad" as it is known to the locals) and sueno.

from steve reed:

   this is the first time driving into new york city with no problems, traffic or parking. it went very smooth. nels' lady, carla, is here and he's very happy and she will do two songs with us, "drove up from pedro" and "tuff gnarl." we had monitor problems which rattled mike out of control!! I think somebody pulled the cables out. the lights looked very good and the house soundman, dave, worked very hard. I was told that the monitors have a problem going off during the performance and coming back on. I'm sorry mike for the problems. scrawl is leaving us. I think they have a great group and deserving of much success!! I'll miss you, scrawl but we'll see you in columbus. bye bye. camera acting up, no pictures of the knitting factory. I got some of new york though.

from watt:

   pop in niantic, connecticut - just east of new london (coast guard academy) and groton (nuke sub factory and base). take walk. stumble w/the rusted tinman joints until finally they creak and give a little. the weather is bright autumn w/clear sky and brisk air. I am lit by this bright october sun. spangled. spackled. the van (boat) is leaving at 1000 hours. team is talking about last night's gig: happy for the piece delivery, sick w/some of the other performances. me, I was konked and awoke w/scrawl coming through the van which sounded great.

   drive though new haven. think a bit. when the merrit parkway comes up, it's good bye I-95 cuz there's no trucks allowed on the parkway (the bridges are too low). the leaves are fading and started to fall but there's still some blazes. steve reed is snappin' shots. lots of snap-able. it's gonna be funny looking at these disks (about forty so far) that hold about fifty shots each and seeing lots of the "fall of '98" as told by the leaves of the northeast. my mind is tangled w/shots and snaps but cuz of the moment, there's a definite difference in the physicality of it. the grasping of these moment/objects like this here spiel even. reach. beyonder. the method of an idea. a simple thing like a sailor. a wrestler. a spieler. what kind of man? the fingers are the windmills. the paws. the little dances my mind and what these knees will allow me, to do.

   we're north of the whole mess of plug and truck-wail that makes up the queens-bronx corridor and we're coming down to bloomfield in new jersey from across the george washington bridge. we gotta dump my eden amp off to get fixed. called eden and they said this is the only pad in the area, no prob. I'm thinking I'm not gonna play on this for another week but good thing I spent that two hundred three tours ago in seattle for this randall. it's ok but the eq's are at funky points. after the amp dump, we head to the gig via the holland tunnel. easiest drive ever for me in this whole area. no plugs or waiting at all! good thing about the "knitting factory" is a laundrymat across the street. I also get a liverwurst sandwich a couple doors down from there. good chow in nyc. I see eugene chadbourne right at the door (he's there to collect some shockabilly monies) and we have a good rap. I'm a big fan of his. we gotta do some gigs together, I give him my number so when he gets to l.a. I can show him pedro. where I got the van there's a no standing area except for loading only and we got like three hours left before that expires so I do diary in the front seat of the van (boat) and watch so I can be ready to jet when the hombres comes around. and come they do, like w/only ten minutes left! so I start the motor, do the starboard, starboard, starboard, starboard and by then (remember, it's nyc), the time's up and we're free to get the space right in front of the pad. I ain't being anal - it's a fucking fifty dollar ticket!

   we do our soundcheck and then steve kaul (the man outside the van) and his protege, max arrives to take watt to a chow. I chow shark. it's great to sit down and rap w/mr. kaul. he's the cat who's booked my gigs for over ten years now. I really dig working w/this cat. he's heard everything you can hear from this kook and still has always supported me in all my endeavors. I don't know what I'd do w/out him. we have a long intense spiel about the politics of these times and what is really going on. not all cynical either. lots of ideas getting thrown around. I tell him about my ideas about life after the opera when I get ready for a new record. he's into it. finally though, I tell him and max I gotta get into the van (boat) and get off to sleepy town. I look down at the watch and realize I only got forty-five minutes! damn. I konk fast and somehow wake right on the dot, grab the shirts and head in and up on the stage.

   this gig is real tough. the monitors aren't working. I can't hear shit. I get mad and start hollering johnny thunders style "turn this piece of shit up." I'm losing focus. it's rubbing off on my team too. bob lee blows the intro to "blue jackets' manual" and nels comes in early on the first chorus of "the boilerman." cuz of the anger, I'm playing w/big time emotion - really laying into the strings. I totally fuck up the "mr. handley, would you defend a man you knew was guilty" in "old man" and then face myself in my mind. I have to get it together and let some humor see the light of this hell. it's the hand life has dealt us and why should everything come easy? you gotta work the room. for "fireman hurley" I finally get it together and find the stride. my guys are really focused and are helping me out big time. we pull the piece tight and then blow it out w/"liberty calls!" nels is incredible. lots of good spirit from the crowd, they're helping out too. I'm a lucky man. I pull through the funk and end the opera on a strong note. I thank my cats over and over off stage as we go back to play the encores. we do "the red and the black" one last time w/scrawl. they're leaving us after this gig and that's kind of a bummer. we'll stay w/them in their hometown of columbus, ohio in a couple of days. I love the scrawls. then carla gets up on stage after we do nels' song. she sings "drove up from pedro" and "tuff gnarl" and we all blow big clams in both tunes. we'll do better tomorrow. I tell the cats in the crowd it was a tough gig for me but it ended up being a good thing. I thank them many times cuz they were great and helped out ever so much. the gig was packed too but still not mersh. I'm loading up and elizabeth says "hi watt." it's great to see her again. good vibe in elizabeth. watt's all happy now. we load up and only have to go a few blocks to jimbo's pad which has a great lot in the back to park the van (those parking structures don't have a high enough clearance, 'member?) w/someone watching to keep the van safe. we can see it too from jimbo's kitchen window. I'm on jimbo's deck, talking and listening but am so fucking tired I just have to give in and konk, hard and heavy.

saturday, october 17, 1998 - hoboken, nj

from bob lee:

   back at maxwell's, where my mom & i met paul bearer some six years ago. "your mom comes to your gigs, that's great... I tried to give my mom a copy of my first record and she told me the vacuum cleaner sounds better than that! mrs. lee, your son is very talented but I'm afraid he's possessed, you'd better take him to church tomorrow..." of course the release in question was the first single by the serial killers, and I think it came with a bag of dirt from ed gein's yard. from what I've heard, his mom was probably right. nevertheless, a really fun meeting. opening are fuck (who I miss while dining with moms) and firewater (uneven but very unique band with todd from cop shoot cop, could be the soundtrAck to a great musical.) tonight is one of my favorite shows of ours, carla joins in again and tears it up. nels told me later that some dude yelled "yeah baby, take it off" as she got on stage and took of her sweater. she leaned down and whispered in his ear, "you're a total asshole!" I don't want to come off like we're the london symphony orchestra or something but man, some people need to get a clue.

from steve reed:

   maxwell's is back and rock'n again. steve shelley is one of the owners. it was a sold out gig and the crowd really enjoyed the show. adam the house soundman did pretty good but the monitors were bad again, so two strikes in a row: new york and new jersey. stayed at our good friend jimbo's apartment. he's the best.

from watt:

   at jimbo's pad I konk under a skylight (his pad has two main rooms - one w/the skylight and one w/big windows facing canal street (just west of the post office). the sun's gonna come blazing through no matter where you are and bob lee w/steve reed are manning the canal side room so up comes the sun and up comes watt - pop! I start the walk w/the six flights of stairs you have to take to get to jimbo's pad but take them one at a time, I got the weak knees and must be vigilant. I pause at the last flight cuz this is where jimbo tripped and took the fast way down a couple of weeks ago and got hurt bad (busted out teeth, ripped open chin, contusions everywhere) and I can feel the vibe of the horror still lingering there. I say a prayer for jimbo and am glad he didn't get killed like that rutgher's frat boy who took the fast way down some stairs all drunk and snapped his neck last sunday when we were playing in phily.

   head out the hatch and out on the streets of manhattan. go over to the westside chow pad on church street to have some comidas cubano. it's both great and econo, what a combo! the sun is out bright and I hoof it all along the hudson and think of pedro cuz I'm by the water. I get back around one and spend the afternoon w/jimbo until five when we gotta go over to hoboken and do the soundcheck. tonight we play w/two bands, _fuck_ and _firewater_ at a pad called "maxwells," where I first played w/the minutemen when ira (from yo la tengo) booked the place. I haven't been here for a few years cuz it went through this thing where some people tried to turn it into a brewpub fratwurst but that failed and steve shelley pitched in and got the thing going back to it's roots w/todd booking the pad again. it's a great room to play and I've always dug it.

   all the hoofing during the morning has got me tired and I bail to the van early. I must've slept for like five hours cuz I miss both the opening acts. damn. we start the piece and another nightmare w/monitors. whatever, I soldier through. nels is playing really, really well and has some cat at the front of the stage conducting him w/hand gestures. it's funny to watch: the magic of alcohol working it's way on a young man. nels looks oblivious to this and makes the scene even look funnier. bob lee is playing really well too and were synced-up solid. when the encores come, the ones we do w/carla are much better and the band does her right. the sonic youth tune is especially tight and I dig that even though they're still in australia and can't be here tonight. they miss us by only a few days. elizabeth comes though and that's great. jimbo can't make it but we see him later after packing up and taking the holland tunnel back to his pad. I have yet another liverwurst sandwich (my third since getting here yesterday) and have some beam. it's great to be at jimbo's pad cuz you can chow and rap right on the deck and when it's time to konk, you're right there. so here comes four am again (seems like that's the magic number this tour) and watt takes the fast way to sleeepy town, quick.

sunday, october 18, 1998 - asbury park, nj

from bob lee:

   spent the morning faced with my past as I sorted thru 11 boxes of stored material from our old basement. donated most of the old clothes (except for concert shirts, which she's promised to sew into a quilt for me someday) and circus/ spin/ mrr mags, kept quite a few books and previously unnoticed records that I neglected in the move to l.a., and of course the old yearbooks, clippings from my senior play etc. we used to come to the beach at asbury park, but I don't think many families would do that now. the town is one of the most blighted I've seen, huge hotels ripped apart, businesses boarded up for decades. the riots in 1967 really fucked this town. carla b. is amazed that any beachfront area could possibly be depressed, but there it is. but our gig at least was well-attended. I got to see my friend ben chatrer, who I haven't seen in a few years, I moved out to l.a. in 1988 with the idea that he & I would start a band. this never happened but lots of other things did instead, so here we are. the first band was a truly awful third eye blind/ green day rip off called last perfect thing, but the second was the all city creepers, possibly the coolest set I've seen from a local band this tour or the last. they have one of the most psychotic, un-selfconscious front men I've ever seen, exactly the kind of singer I would be, weird as hell, cool as shit and not giving a fuck about anyone. the vocals themselves were like a cross between ron mael and adam ant, he even got a few choice "yo-de-oh-de-oh!"'s in there. mike didn;t introduce carla tonight, some dude came up to her afterward and asked "so, what was it like, being onstage?" like she'd just jumped up there and went for it. "uhn, it was okay" "wow, cause you looked like you were just going to have a nervous breakdown up there!" ha ha. I like carla a lot, she'll be missed.

from steve reed:

   I was told that this place would be shit!! the town is very desolate but the club was a very interesting looking place and the sound was pretty good out front and on the stage. soundman chris assisted me all the way. the show ran on time and carla sounded great as she did the night before.

from watt:

   another early pop and another westside restaurant breakfast chow then the hoofin' (sure miss the bike and riding around pedro) and at two we gather to bail so it's time to bid adios to jimbo. don fleming comes bye for some puff just as were doing this and it's good to see him too. says he working on a new _bush tetras_ thing. hands get shook, hugs get distributed and the r's a rolling stone, so we're rolling. bye jimbo - love you.

   we're off back across the holland tunnel and south into new jersey. of course, the eden amp is not ready (fixing one thing found other things wrong, etc.) so the trusty randall will have to fill in. she's doing well though so no big pain. the drive to the jersey coast is a tiny one so on the way we stop in jersey city to visit karen and dave, friends of ours. they used to be in hoboken, where me and nels stayed after a maxwell's show three years ago (mike watt and _the crew of the flying saucer_ "shinebox" tour) and the same couch I laid on and poured the wild turkey down my throat is here at the new pad to bring back memories - man, was I spieling up a blue streak that night. their new pad is righteous and a work in progress w/dave doing all kinds of stuff w/it. he also helped the new maxwell's get together for it's grand re-opening. we say bye and make our way to asbury park, home of "the saint," a pad I've never played before. I've only played asbury park twice, once w/porno at the stone pony (it was so fucking hot and these exotic dancers that were hired to be on stage kept cramming me out of space so I accidently ended puking up on one) and once w/fIREHOSE at the t-bird cafe where it was supposed to be at the fastlane but a rain storm was blasting through the roof so I convinced the boss there to move the gig cuz for sure we would've been electrocuted. this pad is a neat little bar sitch w/no mysteries about it. stickered and flyered all up, it has a great feel. the boss is scott and he's very happening, glad to see us. this is what I like. we do soundcheck, I make some calls and then it's konksville in the van for watt.

   I miss the first band and wake only for the last tune of the _all city creepers_ , a local band who sound great. wish I could've seen their whole gig. we play the opera and it's very to the point and fun/intense. the cats here really didn't know what to expect which is good. it was a mind blow. carla's w/us for this one last gig and does great versions of "...pedro" and "...gnarl." I want to thank the bands that shared the stage w/us and ask bob lee the name of the first band. he doesn't know. I ask the crowd and someone says "the next big corporate thing" and like an idiot I thank _the next big corporate thing_. you guessed it, that's not their name. I never did find out. boy, do I feel stupid but I really like the crowd and it's a good bond and this is a happening place to play. I'm very happy w/the evening, a lucky man watt is. there's no mo-six here and carla's gotta take the amtrack to nyc tomorrow so I want to get us close to phily and drop her off at the big train station there (and it's fucking big - the roof must be sixty feet high!) in the morning so we're back at the same mount laurel mo we stayed at a week ago after the pontiac grill show - the loop is closed! this takes like an hour (from the jersey show to the delaware river - the whole state! tiny states out here in the east but still, you know how I hate driving at night and after a gig) so yours truly is one beaten motherfucker when we finally pull in for anchor. only moments separate me from consciousness and total konk. the next thing mr. reed heard was some lump of a body on the deck, snoring it up like a motherfucker.

read week 3 of the tour diary

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