The Midwest, Flat Tires, and Wheat
Tuesday Jun 20 - Green Bay WI
What Did We Do On Our Day OFF?
We drove back to Champaign (from Toronto) to pick up t-shirts, mail some spurious Dis- CDs and "Fucker" t-shirts to Cargo Records (that's taking care of 12Inch Records stuff, the record label Rick and I try to run), and see if our home was still intact. Then we drove back up to Green Bay today.
This is just the beginning- before July 4th, we will find ourselves driving from Green Bay, Wisconsin out to Lawrence, Kansas, then out to Boston (for the video) then out to Seattle for Lollapalooza. Oh yeah; Rick got AAA this morning before we left. Darn good idea.
Thought For The Day
Does the band Brainiac RULE? Yes, Brainiac DOES IN FACT, RULE. They are amazing. Go see them NOW.
This weird Mooing Thing
So I was so happy to get back to the US where things are "normal" and then the audience here in Green Bay Wisconsin starts this weird "buu-ing" thing (It sounds like they're boo-ing you). They tell me that it's a Good Sound, and it's the sound that a person dying of bubonic plague makes, and also it has something to do with an Owl. I asked on stage if the people who were making that noise were happy, and they assured me that they were. People came up after the show to make sure we knew they weren't "booing" us. It was about 130 degrees on the stage; we were swimming in sweat.
Cedar Falls, IA
I log on to slum around in alt.music.alternative mostly just to post an invite to get more people to read our homepage during Lollapalooza. Now I feel as though I'll have a programming job - or at least, a reporting job - during Lollapalooza. One of the last posts on it is called, "Who Is ML Compton and Why Is He So Lame." Nice. ML Compton happens to be our manager. The post was just about some obscure band I'd never heard of, probably ML showing off about how he had seen them. I just scanned it to see if our name was on it anywhere.
Finally We Have A Tire Blow-out
I was deep into The Making Of The Atomic Bomb, reading about chemical warfare in WWI when I heard an explosion of sorts, hit the ceiling, and watched Rick attempt to steer the van over to the side of the road. Once we figured we had a blow-out, I started clapping and yelling, "Yay!!! FINALLY!" We haven't had a blow-out yet with this van. The old van used to lose tires all the time, and we were down to a 15-minute changeover time, complete with unloading half the amps onto the highway to get to the spare tire.
Since this was the first tire change for this van, I expected to have trouble, and we did. The lugnuts wouldn't loosen, and after watching Rick strain his arms for about 20 minutes, Howie and I decided to walk down the exit ramp to the Texaco station off in the distance, about a half a mile.
The Scariest Truckstop In The World
So we walked to the counter of the truckstop, and told the woman that we had a blowout and
needed assistance, and did she know anything about AAA ("Triple-A Roadside Assistance") and she had never heard of it. She just stood there dumbly for about 15 minutes and then sputtered, in a very southern drawl, "Yew aughta go to the truick desk across the hawll." So we did.
As I passed by the 10 or so Truckers waiting for their showers, they stared at me like I was a TV set, probably trying to figure out if I was a girl or boy.. or something. We stood in line for a while at the Truick Daask and they couldn't help us - they referred us to the gentlemen outside in the Garage.
I Put Howie's Life In Danger
At this point, I remembered I should call AAA, even though we had just gotten it yesterday. I thought that maybe they'd direct us to a better truckstop. I went to the phone booths, which were all lockable, little rooms, like little toilet stalls, and opened one on some guy who looked like he was doing more than talking on the phone.. WOOPS! Sorry! As I called AAA, without thinking, I stupidly told Howie to go back to the garage and try to get us some help.
"skinny jewboy killed at truckstop"
Howie Emerges, Unscathed
As I talked to a friendly AAA guy (he said, "Get A Receipt") I started thinking that Howie was probably dead now, and I was left alone here. Howie going back into the trucker part of the lounge which was scary enough, and then back to the garage by himself - I thought those guys would probably take one look at him and kill him. He looks more like a banker than a trucker, if you know what I mean. A couple of years ago it may have been a scary thing for two wimpy jews to be in the middle of a truckstop in rural Iowa. I ran out to look for Howie, past the staring truckers again, and found him, completely unscathed. "There were two guys welding these huge trucks, and I didn't want to disturb them." *whew*.
You Look Like Rich College Students
We went back to the welding guys together, when we ran into Rob Lowe, moonlighting from his Hollywood career as a mechanic in Waterloo, IA, who spat in front of us, and told us (it was sort of hard to translate) something to the effect of "No one will come out here at this time of night (it was 6pm on a Wednesday) except us, and I've got 2 trucks to go; it'll be at least an hour."
Then, our savior comes along.
I Gave The Dejected Tasmanian Devil 5 Dollars
A man who is Clint-Eastwooder than Clint Eastwood, with a red, ruddy face that looked like a sponge, (and sideburns to boot!) said, "I'll betcha 5 dollars I can get the lugnuts off those tires, Barehanded." I stared at him for a while, while the techs explained why they wouldn't come out to help us, and agreed to let him try. We walked 1/4 mile to the van with "The Tasmanian Devil" - he told us that was his name - and we listened to him talk of his girlfriend down in Texas, his ranch, his horses and all types of different animals, stories about tires melting into the pavement, men separating huge chunks of metal with their bare hands; trucker tales.
When we got to the van, another van had stopped in back of it - the opening band's van (They were called "Big Window" from Iowa City and they were very, very good) - and Rick was putting the other tire on the van. He and Jim had poured water on the lugnuts to cool them down and tapped on them to loosen them. Brilliant guys. I gave the dejected Tasmanian Devil 5 dollars.
The Big Window Solenoid Problem
The Big Window guys had stopped to help us, recognizing our van - we had stayed with them a couple of times! - and then their van had broken. You turn the key and absolutely no sound comes out. They had heard a loud pop somewhere along the road and had thought their starter had fallen out of the van. So here's what The Tasmanian Devil did: He borrowed a small piece of metal from us, asked them to turn their key to "ON" and went under the van. 30 seconds later, the van started. The Tasmanian Devil explained to us that the solenoid on the starter had blown, and he had bridged the gap to start the van. The Big Window guys were grateful, and we were all very impressed. We waved as the Big Window guys drove away with The Tasmanian Devil, giving him a ride back to the truckstop and we continued on our way. We would never see The Tasmanian Devil again.
En Route To Lawrence, Kansas - a pretty long drive
More Information Trickles Down About Lollapalooza
We're playing around Kansas City, one of the Lollapalooza sites, so this is an area where it is known that we are on the 2nd Stage at Lollapalooza. Some people are happy for us, and I'm sure others are jealous as hell. I heard whispers of "They're on 2nd Stage at Lollapalooza" all over the club last night. I am not sure how we received this honor, but I know it was NOT through our record label. We would like to think that we are getting a break for a change; that 3 months of unrelenting touring with no tour support and barely any press - well, how about almost 8 years of unrelenting touring! - and 5 records, and the same amount of fans, and watching bands who opened for us get famous - lets us deserve an honor such as this. I was told by someone who exaggerates a lot that Pavement requested our presence on the 2nd Stage, too; if this is true, (I found out later on that they "weren't AGAINST us being on the tour") we owe one of our favorite bands a huge THANK YOU! Anyway, I hope people aren't too jealous. I feel like we deserve this, as does Brainiac and Yo La Tengo. Bands you never heard of but should have.
The Much Coveted Sinead O'Connor Spot
So we found out that we play right near the time that Beck is playing on the 2nd Stage. This is not the much-coveted Sinead O'Connor spot (playing opposite Sinead - no offense, please) that every 2nd Stage "rock" band desires, but it is ok. The Sinead Reward goes to much-deserving Yo La Tengo, who have been screwed over for 5 years longer than we have.
The People Who Run Lollapalooza Are Smart
This is not going to be some crappy, scary radio festival. These people are smart and oriented towards the indie/alternative/ego-less scene, I think. We are told the stage manager is the same person who's been in charge for 3 years, and he is nice. And why am I smiling so big? Because the 2nd Stage Merchandise Rate is 0%. What does this mean? We can sell our shirts for CHEAP!
A Description Of Our Van
I'm sitting in our Touring Vehicle - it's a white, Chevy Sport Van with a plastic blue interior, 15-passenger, Cargo van - amidst clothes caked with body-salt, once sopping with sweat, pillows, books, shoes, and wheat. We're in Iowa now, on our way to Kansas, and the wheat must have gotten tracked into the van when we were stopped on the road. It is literally at least 100 degrees in here; the outside air temperature is in the high 90s, and our air conditioning doesn't work; we don't have time to stop and fix it. Water in bottles laying in here heats up to whirlpool-temperatures, and is undrinkable; a little hotter and all our deoderants will probably melt. There is a topper on the van, purchased in Decatur IL, which looks frighteningly like an upside-down fiberglass rowboat, glued on to the top of our van. Most of the original top of the van has been removed, except for an area above the drivers and passenger's front seat, where 3 huge boxes of t-shirts, a tent, and other "hard" things (objects you don't want to get hit with) can be stored.
The 1st passenger bench of the van has been torn out, leaving enough room to sleep two on the floor. I am sitting in its place on the floor now, which is covered in egg-carton rubber foam, typing on our very warm laptop. The computer probably shouldn't even be on; it's way too hot in here.
The remaining bench seat sleeps Howie or Jim usually. The very back of the van has a wooden loft, elevated by metal bars. Under the loft fits all the band equipment, amps and cabinets and drums; held back by the bench seat. Above the equipment is a loft where we can stick soft things like our sleeping bags and sweaty show clothes. If a really fast stop is made, everything from the back loft falls on top of whoever's sitting in the back seat. There is no one else travelling with us right now; just the 4 of us in the van, and everyone is sharing driving duty, but Jim has been doing most of it lately. The van can sleep 4, and uncomfortably 5 if it needs to.
We have no tape-player or CD-player; just a radio.
True Dreams Of Wichita
Driving Through Kansas City
A brown haze hangs over the surprisingly urban Kansas City skyline as we cruise through on a deserted I-70. The fresh cat-pee and cow-dung smell of fertilizer which greeted us at the Kansas border now gives way to a potpourri of chemical smells as we drive through a restaurant row of chemical factories; first we smell melting rubber, then burning sugar, a couple of miles later, acetate, then freshly mown hay, then nothing, which I find strangely ominous, and then metal cleaner. The highway system running through the city looks more like an airport runway system, 4 lanes each direction that I have never seen full. The sun is still blaring down, high in the sky at 7:30pm; today we are one day past the soltice. I love this part of the US; I have crystal-clear memories of driving through Kansas city around dusk, pink sky and towering, ice-blue halogen lamps shining down on an empty, sandstone colored superhighway. This is what I picture, shivering, listening to Soul Coughing's True Dreams Of Wichita.
Intense Fugazi Show
We played an amazing show with Fugazi here a couple of years ago, during the course of which, after Ian had told people to stop dancing and hurting each other over and over, he finally had the house lights turned on. Kids hated the lights on; unhappy to see each other, and a couple of songs later, a petition, signed by kids in the audience, written on the side of a cardboard box, was thrust upon the stage. Ian went over and picked it up, and read to the audience that the petition stated that the kids wanted the lights turned off again. He announced that the lights would now be turned off, and also that they had learned something about government, when suddenly, a smartass in the crowd yelled, "Turn ALL the Lights Off!!" Of course Ian complied, and the hall and stage went completely dark, and Fugazi began to play "Blueprint," and I began to cry. Halfway through the song all the lights went back on again. Later on after the show there was a scuffle with the club owner, his gun and many policemen; the impetus being Ian having angered him by complaining onstage about the extra $1.50 tacked onto the ticket price by ticketmaster. A soundguy from the sound company travelling with Fugazi was beaten up and his video camera was destroyed. The media outcome of this was "Fugazi Incites Riot."
Today we were interviewed by KJHK, first radio station to broadcast over the internet! Please go check it out! (We haven't been able to yet, cuz no highspeed line on tour.)
Dumbest Question Of The Year
We have finally had our first "How Do You Feel About Hum Being Famous? Are You Jealous Of Them?" question in an official interview. Wow. It's such a hard question to answer, because it is insulting. You don't want to say, "Well, look. We spent around $4000 putting out their first two records, trying to get them heard outside of Champaign, and we insisted on taking them on tour with us, pissing off both our record label and our booking agent, who wanted us to tour with a larger band. Does it sound like we want them to fail?" Any band who gets popular from your hometown ONLY helps you. PLEASE remember that. A jealous scene is a destructive one; a supportive one grows.
There is room for much more than one band from any scene! In fact, at this point, we are getting more press from HUM on RCA than we're getting on our own. HUM is speaking well of us in interviews, returning our favors, and talking about the Champaign Scene, as well. As Baltie from Menthol (formerly "Mother") said, "there is an unwritten rule that no one says anything bad about any band in our scene." We've worked hard at getting recognition for the Champaign Scene for 8 long years, and it's finally happening!
Of course, what made this interview worse was that the next question was, "Are you going to give up after this record and break up, or are you going to try to make another?"
The Blue Note
The Blue Note seems strangely quite tonight; two shows ago we headlined here to 900 people, and the show after that there were about 150. Tonight we had 270 people, but were assured that it was a pretty good crowd for a warm, summer night in a college town. The only bad thing about tonight's show was that the club's new soundguy, although nice, apparently had a problem getting any low-end out of the PA when we went on stage, so all you could hear was our vocals and a snare drum. No bass, guitar, or kick drum in the mix. *sigh*. I am so glad that Joe The Soundguy will be back with us for Lollapalooza.
Saturday Jun 24th - last show before Video Shoot!
Howie's Chicago Scene Update
Hey kids! this is howie the drummer again. so we've been on tour for a long, long time but then last week we stopped of at home for a couple of days (home for me is chicago). and when i'm home after being away for so long, i like to catch up on what's been going on in the chicago scene. so i turned to bill wyman's column in the chicago reader and this is what i read about (to the best of my memory): apparently, one of the guys from red red meat happened upon jim ellison from material issue in a wicker park bar. then he pulled it out and peed on him. (whipped it out? slung it out?) ellison was pissed (and pissed on) and a fight ensued and then one or both of them were kicked out of the bar. but that wasn't the end of it. apparently, ellison showed up at a red red meat show at metro a short while later and threw cups of urine at the band while they were onstage. or maybe it was that he infilterated their beer supply with urine and somehow they drank it. whatever--the point is that ellison got his revenge. and then later on, the red red meat guy apologized and everyone went their separate ways. the moral of the story? I come back from weeks on the road just hungering to hear some cool news, to hear about some band getting signed or something, and all i get is this? kind of disappointing. and also this story illuminates the key difference between the champaign and the chicago scenes. in champaign, everyone goes to each other's shows and it's all back slapping and hugs afterwards. in chicago, they just pee on each other. see ya!
Rose Again: Stuff I forgot, like $$ per Head
I remembered something as we were selling shirts last night at the Blue Note. The merchandiser for Matthew Sweet (back when we were on the Sweet tour) would calculate each night the amount of "money per head" made on the merchandise. He would say proudly, "Matthew, tonight we did $2.50 per head - I'd say by early summer, you'll be up to $3 a head, easily." Matthew would be embarrassed.