We're IN Canada!
This begins our tour of Canada!
Thursday Jun 08 - Crossing Into Canada
About 5 miles outside of Augusta, Maine, the van stops moving.
IT's because we forgot to get gas. Duh. Rick and I start walking back to Augusta with our empty red gas container (my theory was that someone would stop for a girl and a guy, faster than they'd stop for just a guy, but no one stopped at all) and decide to cross over to the other side of the highway. Exactly where we decide to cross the street, we climb over the mountain and walk through the trees to the other side of the highway and there's a rest area right there in front of us. We had walked about 3 minutes. So we stop and call the poice, who send a $45 wrecker out to help us put $6 worth of gas in our car. Howie met us at the rest area; he and Jim had plugged the CB radio in and found out we were across the street from the rest area.
I finally got up the guts to start up the computer in front of the immigration desk just as we were getting ready to leave. There was a half-hearted van search; just going through Howie's CD case and noticing there are no smokers in the van. I think that made them decide to just leave us alone. I even washed my underpants last night incase the guard had decided to go through my bag.
We have 20 t-shirts and 5 CDs with us, and they didn't even seem to care about that.
The road up to Canada was beautiful - moose signs everywhere, huge deciduous and coniferous trees everywhere, and a river running alongside the van half the way up. We hit about 10 butterflies in northwestern Maine, and we passed a red fox, standing on the edge of the road, looking at us.
In Quebec now, French comes before English, if there is any English, on the road signs, and everything is in Kilometres, and kph. Houses look a little weirder, as well, but we just passed a McDonald's sign, so we know that "all is OK." I can't believe we actually found this club, it was totally by accident and instinct, sort of following our noses to where a club might be located.
Later that Night
Well, it would almost seem like someone is telling us to give up. We couldn't complete this show either. Remember, I couldn't finish the previous show because I was busy throwing up from food poisoning - well, this show ended early for us because of power problems; the little club we played at wasn't equipped to handle a band with 3 amps. We probably played about 7 songs total, stopping in between and trying to fix our amps, sweating, scared to death we were going to blow them out since we were playing with much less power than they needed. *sigh*.
We are not sad - we're sort of just laughing at it all. These things are what make the tour interesting.
Things are going a lot better now - for about 3 shows, we actually did NOT even get through our set list, for one reason or another. The first was me throwing up, the second show had power problems, and the third, well, we all just ran out of time, and most of the audience was sitting down, and those that were dancing were holding their ears, screaming in pain in between songs! The place we played was cafeteria/echo chamber, so I can understand the audience's grief. Last night, in Ottawa, we played in a proper club, although it was 10% full, and we played at 5pm, we had a good show. Nothing stood in our way. Not being able to actually finish 3 shows in a row has really messed with my (and Rick's) mind; we have been really depressed. Howie and Jim have been taking over band duties like t-shirt selling and driving, and Howie's even gotten paid a couple of times and gotten directions to the clubs. It's a bit like having 4 tour managers; we are all getting along quite well. We've been getting motel rooms here in Canada, just to rest our minds and bodies, and besides; we're too afraid to ask Canadians to house us.
It is before the show in Kingston, and we are sitting backstage, hoping to be fed soon. We are all very hungry, and the 1st band is about to go on; we are the second. We are wondering if we will have to eat our food while we play.
Hardship Post is Great.
They are a band from Halifax on Subpop Records, who we are touring Canada with! They sound like ...uh. (I just asked one of them- he said "spare"). They are really great - like noise and a little Slint influence, but definitely not Slint-Damage. Sometimes I even hear a little bit of XTC (the band) in their music. It's impossible to describe the sound of a band. Their audience all has the indie-rock uniform - the 70s t-shirts, skate pants, girly-Ts and skateboards. That's the best way I can describe them. They are going on tour with Six Finger Satellite in the states next month, along with Zumpano, another band we played with earlier this tour.
Not To Complain Or Anything
I was trying to figure out why the Canadian shows seemed so weird, and then I figured it out. The audience SITS while you play. The audience sits while we play (most of them, anyway) and they sit while Hardship Post, a Canadian band plays, too. They just sit. They sat this whole show. It's like playing in Europe, sort of. The audiences are very, very polite, and make noise after each song, but they sit.
Something You Can't Quite Put Your Finger On
Canada really looks a lot like suburban US, except something is just wrong. Something is different, and you can't put your finger on it. Nothing is scary, and people are all very nice. The straws here are smaller - remember when McDonald's used to have small straws and
then all the sudden they went to these big, behemoth straws? Canada still has small straws at their restaurants. There are a lot more donut shops here, too.
Man, there sure is a lot of traffic out here. We are getting motel rooms lately because we feel weird about asking Canadians for floors to sleep on.. and we are getting a bit tired of touring. We've really been out since March 11th; and home for only a week during this whole thing. For the last two nights, we've slept in the same motel room and it feels like our little house right now. Anyway, today, we watched a chemical spill outside our room. It was sort of exciting. There is a lot of traffic here in Toronto.
We have a new game now called "movie" - well, the guys don't know it's called that, but we're still developing it. It is very fun for us and makes us crack up with laughter. You play it like this: You start talking about a movie that you "can't remember the name of" and then you say, "You know that movie; it was with... (and then name a made-up cast) Michelle Pfeiffer, Charles Grodin, and Matthew Broderick..." and you continue to describe the movie; you make up the whole movie, and if you do it right, everyone else chimes in with different parts of it and everyone breaks up in laughter after a while. Our best movie (and only one so far) that we are working on is "Mr. Fish" with Matthew Broderick, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Rutger Hauer (the cast of Ladyhawke enjoyed working together so much that they self-produced a movie) and Brian Dennehy... I don't know if this is funny to you people reading it, but by the time we say the name "Brian Dennehy" we are all cracking up.
They don't sell Aero Bars in the US, but they sell them here in Canada. I eat one each night. They are very sugary chocolate bars, with bubbles in them - I think they used to be sold in the US and were called "Chocolite bars." I could swear this.
It is after the show and we are getting ready to go to bed. I think I just watched Jim drink 3 cokes, and now he's asleep.
Another less-than-filled show
But the audience stood.. well, most of them did. I worry about Hardship Post - I hope they are not getting discouraged. I hope we can take them with us sometime in the US and show them what our US crowds can do!! Get 'em bashed into a little bit, to cheer them up.
Here is something you should know! There is no MTV in Canada! There is "Much Music" which looks exactly like MTV, only it has a bit wider of a variety of videos on it, I think; although I am only watching it very late, and I see a show called "Wedgie" which has "alternative" bands. Canadians tell me that people criticize "Much Music" the same as people in the US criticize MTV. (I obviously have no gripes about MTV because they are very nice to us and play our videos!) "Much Music" will play more Canadian bands, I assume, because there is some kind of law here that forces radio stations to play some huge percentage of Canadian bands! Talk about supporting the local scene!
Another cool thing about Canada
Maybe they have weird censorship laws here, but you just can't beat free health-care. I have a nice computer, but I do not have enough money to pay for going to a doctor when I am sick. I have health-insurance, but it doesn't cover me getting sick, for some reason. Canadians get free health-care when they get sick. I know people in the US say that Canadian doctors aren't as good as the US doctors, but most of the doctors I have seen in the US are incompetent, anyway. It is very hard for me to imagine them being worse. Also, although there is a national health-care system here, some Canadians told me that people can also go to special doctors sometimes, if they want to; they pay extra.
I had a whole long fight once online with a bunch of Canadians (I was on their side) and some US guy who just pretty much insisted that doctors wouldn't perform their duties well if they weren't paid as much. He told us that he sure wouldn't. This brings the whole argument down to this bottom line; are you brought up to do your job/care about your fellow man just for money? And for a lot of people in the US, the answer is probably yes. And this depresses me.
Our old drummer #5 Johnny got his face cut open while here in Canada on a previous tour of ours. He spent almost all night in a hospital, getting stitches, and the bill was about $60. My dad, too, once broke his toe in Canada, and got a bill later from the hospital for $13.
I could get used to that, if the doctors would be able to handle fixing people just to help them, instead of only for money.
Driving To Niagara Falls
Rick Sings The Blues
To keep himself sane, Rick sings nonsensical songs about every sign we pass on the road. Could this get irritating? Here is his song from the last five minutes: (We just passed a construction sign saying "Widening QEW" - Queen Elizabeth Way, the road we're driving on.)
Rick's 11:37am Song on the QEW
We're widening the Queen
So You Can Drive Right On Her
We're widening the Queen
She needs to be a bit wider
It doesn't really look like a Queen
It looks kinda like a road
Maybe that's what she'll look like,
When she gets really old
Oh Give Me A Piece Of Pizza,
With Some Cement On It,
Chorus: (He's hungry, too)
Don't eat your finger,
It's Not good for you,
Don't eat your finger,
Soon you'll be eatin' shoes
Horseshoe Falls, or, I saw a 50-Year Old Bald Man With a Family Wearing a Fugazi Shirt
We have a motel 2 blocks away from the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, which is horseshoe-shaped! The American side is just a touch away - it's the closest we've been to America for over a week. Howie and I walked around a little, marvelling at the kitschy shops all along the Niagara Strip; there are little shops everywhere with tourist souvenirs, black velvet Niagara mementos, Elvis paperweights, and Yes, Kurt Cobain 1967-1994 t-shirts and posters EVERYWHERE. It is really weird to see Kurt next to Elvis. There is even a t-shirt of Him (Kurt) as a little boy, with glowing Jesus eyes, with his birth and death dates under it. I saw a 50-year old bald man wearing a Fugazi shirt, too.
The Show Tonight
As always, we get to the show, the promoter assures us it will be filled with tons of people - and we have the big guarantees to prove that the promoter believes this - and the attendance has averaged around 50 people. It looks very bad. I know we do not mean much out here, because we've never toured out here; each show reminds me of the first time we played Chicago, years and years ago. It takes a while to build up a following. Since we've been on tour since March, it is a little hard sometimes to get up the enthusiasm to play our hardest to a crowd of 30, but we have been doing it. You have to. These are the important people. On top of it, we usually go 2nd out of 3 bands, sandwiched between a local and Hardship Post, and since the people have never heard of us, sometimes they leave during our set! The ones who stay are usually happy they did, though.
Going to London Ontario
One more day of this Canadian tour after tonight. I have sorta had hopes each day that tonight will be the night with a huge crowd! but now I have given up hope. Each night has proven to have the same 30-50 indie-ly dressed kids, sometimes sitting while we play. We have mixed feelings about the tour; of course it was important to play here where we've never played before, and we've been around for so long, playing shows like this and we know that the audiences get bigger, and your name spreads when you do this, but then again, they only get so big and then you need to take another step up, somehow. It's funny how you play to 30-50 people when you're first starting out, but yet, eight years later, you can still play shows to 30-50 people, just like when you first started out.
When we have a good show here in Canada, it's typical for people to come up to us and ask us if we have any "demo tapes" - or do we have a record out yet? - and when we answer, "We have 5, actually," they are really surprised. "How Come I Haven't Heard Of YOU??"
We are starting to feel like we have done an extraordinary amount of touring and in the towns where we have the same crowd coming to each show, we feel like we need to take a bigger step. We are not sure yet how to do this. It's never been a big part of the band; the new thing is that we feel like more people should be hearing our record and liking it, and we want to play shows to more people. The people who have been 'with' us for the 8 years we've been around sometimes get sick of us and move on; and it's just a natural progression. We want to reach more minds.
What Will The Next Leg Of The Tour Be Like?
We have 3 or 4 shows that we know will have our "regular" crowd at them; we have a following in Columbia, Lawrence, and hopefully in Iowa. Still, the Coumbia show is at a huge club called The Blue Note, about the size of the Cabaret Metro, around 1000 people will fit into the beautiful club, and the last time we headlined there, 200 people showed up. Not bad, unless you consider that the time before that, there were almost 900 people. And we headlined that, too. So we don't know what to expect from that show. We hope it will be better than these Canadian shows.
Then we drive out to Boston to do a "He's My Star" video.
And then, we are very much looking forward to playing The Terrace in Madison WI. Mercy Rule, friends of ours from Nebraska, a band who is INCREDIBLE, will be playing with us there, it's a free outdoor show right on the lake outside the beautiful Madison Union, and we will play a little after sunset. There will be about 1000+ people sitting on the lawn, watching us, if it's a good day, and hopefully a ton of little punk rock kids dancing around the stage as we play. That will probably be the funnest show of the year, just as it was last year; we have this show in our minds when things get really depressing here in Canada.
And then there's Lollapalooza
The Madison show sends us off to 2nd-Stage Lollapalooza; a perfect going-away present. I expect this site to be hopping during that week; tell your friends. We are going to try to incite a riot between Sinead O'Connor and Courtney Love, get it on our quicktake camera, and stick it right on the web.
Yesterday's Show In London, Ontario
Yesterday's show was a great show - I think the crowd actually liked us, and there were people there bobbing their heads! The promoter was very nice and geniunely seemed interested in the bands (and I'm not just saying that because he may be reading this) and the show was in a really nice part of town, which lightened the whole evening.
Radio, Radio, Wherefore Art Thou, Radio??
I guess our single for "He's My Star" has been out for over a week now, and from what I hear, there are 2 radio stations across the US playing it. This is beyond our comprehension, and it's driving us mad. We *know* that this song is radio-playable.
Another Weird Logo
Remember when I was talking about the strange logos in Canada? Here's another - there is a store called "Canadian Tire" and we're not sure what's in it. It would appear to be a car-parts store, but there seem to be as many Canadian Tire Stores in Canada as there are Wal-Marts in America. (And there are Wal-Marts in Canada, too.) The thing is, the stores are HUGE! Maybe they sell tires. The most confusing thing about it is their logo: It is a huge, bright-red upside-down isoceles triangle (point at the bottom) and a very small green maple leaf on the top. My only guess is that it sort of looks like a flattened, triangular strawberry, in a weird way. What does a strawberry have to do with tires?
TORONTO North-by-Northeast festival show
MUCH MUSIC INTERVIEWS US!! WOOHOO!
Much Music showed up and INTERVIEWED US at our Toronto NXNE Festival show!! And we're not even Canadian! What a compliment! Wow!! It made it all worthwhile! We had watched the Canadian Music Channel each night after our shows; it is like MTV but a little different; it seems more diverse (although we saw the cutting edge show each night) and there is much more Canadian music on it. Much Music filmed part of our show (yay!) and interviewed us; they were so nice! Unfortunately they asked us in the interview if we were angry that we were still playing little festivals like NXNE when we had been around for 8 years and 5 records- a hard question to answer during a filmed interview. Stutter, stutter, stutter. "Are you upset that you're not popular?"