San Francisco To Albuquerque - April 95
San Francisco to Los Angeles, Tues Apr 11th
3:30am, ML's (our manager) guest room. I cannot fall asleep, because I am waiting terrified for "The Big One." I have never felt an earthquake before, but everytime I come to LA, I am primed for one.
Los Angeles/ Death By Large Yellow Umbrella
We are in Los Angeles, the "promised land," finally. Today is the first day I could wear shorts. I love the warm weather, and I love the drive from San Francisco down to LA. (come to think of it, there are very few drives that I dislike). I remember a couple of tours ago, coming down the mountain pass into LA, there was a Christo exhibit, about 1000 huge yellow plastic umbrellas placed sporadically along "The Grapevine," along the mountains. Christo is that guy who wrapped entire islands in plastic; he does very large art. There were yellow umbrellas placed along the highway in California, and blue ones placed in Japan somewhere. I think the exhibit was taken down early because a lady was killed in a windstorm; impaled by a large plastic yellow umbrella d' art. What a way to go.
Angry Bartender Unable to Use Phone
The greatest hour of my day yesterday was the hour between 6:30pm and 7:30pm when we probably took some years off the life of the bartender at The Bottom Of The Hill Club by hijacking one of his phone lines for our AOL Warner-Online conference. I don't think he understood what we were doing, and for an entire hour, he was FUMING at us as we typed merrily away at the keyboard, and he had to use the phone on the other side of the bar, 20 feet away. For some reason, one of my favorite pasttimes seems to be making people really angry.
Virtual Reality and Bright Green Hair
Nat is our friend who is an engineer in a virtual reality lab in the Silicon Valley Edge City. A couple of tours ago, he came up after we finished a show, introduced himself and asked us if we'd like to see a "virtual reality" demo- of course, our jaws dropped to the floor as we tried to scream "YES!" through our drool. It was so NEW then! We were so excited; we came around to his office the next day and he showed us the standard helmet and glove, and we flew around a kitchen, an office, and the inside of a body, grabbing things and shoving computers outside of windows, etc. The craziest thing about the helmet is that it is hard to remember that you are looking at a world, not just a tv screen. When you turn around to look behind you, you are looking at the virtual world BEHIND you. It's hard to grasp. Nat explains to us now that he is doing testing on different virtual hardware; his unemployed friends come down to his lab and get paid $10 an hour to get virtually seasick, playing video games, wearing eye goggle headsets. I tried it once for a while and got sick, myself! It was great! Anyway, we missed Nat's new demo because he's busy working at a computer conference this week. Nat now has bright green hair. I wonder how he's being received at his convention.
Los Angeles, Wed, Thurs Apr 12-13th
The Best Part About Los Angeles
We are in Los Angeles still, and I have started remembering that my favorite thing about LA is the part when we leave. We have two more shows here and then we drive east. It's not that I dislike LA, it is just too weird for me, and our schedule is way too hectic when we are here. People driving everywhere, and the weird rules, like if you flip someone off on the highway they shoot you, and worrying about earthquakes all the time makes me nervous. There are parts of the city that I love, (like the restaurant Versailles and the Warner Brothers office) but it is fun to leave because I experience such a relief. That, and you get to see all those windmills on the way out of the city.
The Troubadour is Wired!
The club we played at last night is called The Troubadour, and I drooled with envy as I watched them hook up a brand new 56K modem in to their soon-to-be ISDN phone line, up in a cigarette-smoke-filled office. They will have their own web page in a matter of weeks or days. This club is probably my favorite to play in Los Angeles now. The show went ok, and there was a "meet-and-greet" for us which means that label people and other industry-types go upstairs in the club, eat pizza, and talk to us. I found it sort of nice to talk to these people, for some reason. I used to make fun of bands who had this sort of thing, but it really isn't bad at all, because most of the label people are friends now, and it is nice to be able to meet and talk to them in person, instead of on the phone. I reiterate what I have been spouting off about for the past 3-4 years; Warner Brothers, at least OUR Warner Brothers, is not a normal major label. It is completely artist-oriented. We still love it.
Still In Los Angeles - Thursday April 13th
Interviews at the Ski Lodge
So we go to the Warner Brothers offices (known as The Ski Lodge) today, to do interviews and get free Pavement and Flaming Lips CDs; you know, the free CDs that Steve Albini always talks about; every promo CD gets charged to the band, etc., etc. Actually, anything that is a "promotional item" does not get charged to the band, however, he is right; the money does have to come from somewhere. Anyway, this is another story, and another notesfile. Here's a sample of one of our interviews:
INTERVIEWER: So, where did you guys find Howie? (Drummer #6)
HOWIE: I was working in a toll booth on I-294 (Chicago) and they kidnapped me.
ROSE: It was easier than paying the tolls
INTERVIEWER: Is that really true?
HOWIE: No, it's just my dream job; working as a toll booth operator on I-294.
ROSE: Hey, guys, what are your dream jobs?
RICK: I have two now; my first was always to be a postal worker with a route, but I just found another dream job if I don't make it into the postal workers; I would like to be one of those guys who drives those billboard trucks around; you just drive around the city all day with a billboard attached to you, and nothing else.
ROSE: My dream job is to be able to work at Kinko's, and have access to that color copier. I could wreak havoc with 24-hour free color.printer.access.
INTERVIEWER: (rolling on the floor laughing)
JIM: (dreamily) I want to be a shepherd.
ROSE: What would you shepherd, though? Goats? Sheep?
RICK: Llamas? You could shepherd ostriches, you know.
JIM: Just sheep. I would be a classic shepherd.
Tonight's show: Spaceland, in Los Angeles.
What can I say? We all dislike the new trend of people NOT dancing at the shows. Word of encouragement from our manager, who watched the show: "I was going to get really mad at the guy who was laying completely prone on the floor while you played, but then I looked over and noticed that he was tapping his feet."
Phoenix, Arizona, Fri Apr 14th
Escape from Los Angeles
When I say that the best part about Los Angeles is leaving it, I don't mean it to be a dis on LA. I love LA, but I also love to leave it. We are exhausted, emotionally and physically, and had to get up at 8am in order to get to Phoenix on time to wait for the club's soundguy to appear.
Stuck in Time and Space
As I drive out of LA, east on I-10, waiting for my favorite
scenery, the windmills and the dry brown moutains and
dirt everywhere, and later on, cactus, it seems to me
that the entire city has decided to leave at the same time
as us. We drive about 70-miles an hour in stop-and-go traffic;
it's no wonder that people shoot each other on the freeways here.
The sky is bright white and it seems as if
the city is closing in on us, the farther we
drive, the further it stretches, the mountains
are still green, and we still see signs for LA suburbs.
When I finally get to the windmills east of LA on I-10, they are completely still, adding to my feeling that I'm stuck somewhere in time and space. I start hallucinating TV characters in the cars on the freeway since I am so tired; I pass Maryann and The Professor from Gilligan's Island in a pickup truck and Bill Cosby wearing a cybersuit, leaf-blowing gear, cleaning the sidewalks.
Since this is LA and Howie our drummer just ate dinner next to Snoop-Doggy-Dog at a chicken+waffle restaurant last night (Snoop didn't recognize him), I decide that my situation could still be normal, and it is still safe for me to drive. When I pass the Simpsons (not O.J.) in a station wagon, I decide that something's wrong with me and that I should pull off, and we land in a deserted Baskin-Robbins parking lot on the Cal-Ariz border. I stumble out trying to show Rick the direction from whence we came and the next thing I remember is waking up, surrounded by dry, red empty desert and green cactus.
We are greeted by a poster in The NILE Club in Mesa, Arizona:
RULES FOR BANDS
1) NO ALCOHOL ON THE STAGE, OR YOU [sic] WILL BE DOCKED.
2) NO ONE MAY TOUCH THE MICROPHONES EXCEPT HOUSE SOUND GUY
3) BANDS MAY ONLY LOAD EQUIPMENT OFF THE STAGE USING RAMP ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF STAGE OR YOU MAY BE DOCKED
4) BANDS PLAYING OVER THE ALOTTED TIME WILL BE DOCKED
5) BANDS PLAYING OVER A "REASONABLE" DECIBEL LIMIT WILL BE DOCKED
and so on.
In a really "nice" club; i.e., one with actual speakers in the monitors, one that provided us with SOME of the stuff on our rider, or one that treated us with "respect," we wouldn't mind these regulations, but this club was a hole. It's a huge hole, too. On our contract, the club stated that they needed $125 for catering for us; (we usually just get $50 for meals for the 5 of us) - but the meal consisted of 2 pizzas; one pepperoni, and the other was sausage. When I went up and asked for a coke, I was informed that the club had run out of coke and wouldn't have any that night. "We have 7-up or water," they said. And seriously, there were 4 monitors on stage; one had completely torn-up speakers, 2 were just for show; they only had tweeters, and I have no idea if the drum monitor worked. Oh well. The show was fun, because near the end, I noticed a little ring of mohawk-boys dancing around way in the back. This is the kind of stuff that makes us happy!
Meet Drummer #1: Shannon!
We stayed tonight at our first drummer's house, with his wife and beautiful child. They have a wonderful house outside Phoenix, with a gravel backyard and cactus. I absolutely love the yards with gravel and cactus in the Southwest. The little girl is 5 months old and teething already. They seem to live in a paradise. Shannon works in a hospital now, and he is a heart-manipulator; one of those guys they call to massage the hearts of dying patients. He went back to school after quitting the band.
ROSE: What a beautiful house you guys have.
HOWIE: Is that a real gun? (Shannon's got rifles and guns; it's Arizona)
SHANNON: Yeah. Are you the new drummer?
Tucson, Arizona -- Saturday April 15th
Edge City Laundry
Today, before we left for Tucson, we did our laundry somewhere in the Edge City of Phoenix. (It was time; Howie had been recycling socks, and I hadn't worn any underwear for about 3 days. Rick had even started re-wearing some of the 16 pairs of pants he carries around with him. Jim even washed his pillow-case.) Rick has read all of Edge City, that book by Joel Garreau, so he explained to us that Phoenix is laid out in true Edge City form; like the Atlanta airport, the city is engineered for expansion. When it's time to make this city bigger, it will just expand outward, not pile up on itself like New York or Chicago. An Edge City is that outside part of a big city that is made up of 2-3 story brick office buildings with futuristic names on the sides; mostly weird computer firms, and lots of strip malls. It's the "new" form of city; the city for when people move their workplaces out of the big cities and out to the suburbs. What this means to all of us is that each show we play in this area is in a strip mall, and there is a Circle-K Convenience store on EVERY corner. If you think I am exaggerating about the Circle-Ks, well, you're wrong.
I had forgotten how much I love Tucson
Tucson is one of those totally arid, blown-out looking cities that I absolutely love. Just seeing tumbleweeds blowing around the streets gives me chills. We played at the Downtown Performance Center, a huge warehouse with lots of art inside, and a small punk-rock library with fun zines and books. A couple of years ago, the Tucson library was moving, and they'd dump old library books in the dumpster beside the DPC every Tuesday; punks would pillage the dumpster books. We got a great bunch of free books that tour.
That Satin-Jacket Crown and Courtney Love
The soundguy at the DPC knows that we just came from the NILE club in Phoenix and has some sort of problem with the soundguys there, so one of the first things he says to us as we walk into the DPC is "SO, How was the NILE club?" After a few minutes it becomes apparent that he wants do a little ragging on the "Satin Jacket Soundguy Crowd," so we tell him our story about how the soundguy last night refused to turn down the loud rock music after we played: the club had cleared out and there was some stragglers who wanted to buy t-shirts and the soundguy CRANKED up the one CD that he had been playing all night in between bands to a sound level that was WAY louder than the bands.
We were trying to talk to people, so we asked him about 3 times to turn down the sound, but each time he'd go run to the board and re-EQ it so he could crank the sound even louder! It was pretty funny by the end of the night; he just had the music so loud that we were all wearing our earplugs until we were well out of the club. The soundguy at the DPC tells us his horror stories about the NILE club, and we all laugh; this soundguy is obviously an indie-rocker type, and the NILE guys are all from that Rock era, when attitude was even more important than hair height. We don't really have too much of a problem with people with attitudes; we find them funny. The only problems we have are with people who accuse US of having attitude.
It's weird to find yourself in the middle of some odd scene/feud thing that you're not part of. We just try to be diplomatic about the whole thing. Like when some English reporter asked me what I think of Courtney Love, looking for a dis: I replied, "I don't know her!" but he still wanted my opinion. I told him that all I knew about her was from press and other people, and I don't repeat other people's opinions, especially those I read in the press, and wouldn't have any information about her until I had met her. I like her music and think she is great on stage, I told him, and that's all he'd get from me.
Tucson seems to be a haven for artists, or at least, more of an "art" town than Champaign, IL. Actually, any prison camp would probably seem more artistic than Champaign - we do have a great band scene, but the city just seems a lot more conservative than Madison WI, or Albuquerque. We wonder why there are no big health-cafes serving $3.50 rice and bean dishes, no Thai or Indian restaurants or any kind of interesting cuisine. It's probably due to the big engineering school in Champaign. Engineers have no creativity. (Before you go emailbombing me, remember, I'm an engineer too.)
Hey. A Show Report
So sometime during this show I sort of cracked, and remembered why I love to play music, and I found that energy that helps me scream louder on stage, and jump around more, and forget where I am, and forget that I'm being watched. I am talking about the same energy that is present in a touring band and is missing in a non-touring one; some kind of confidence or something. I had been having boring shows for the last week - and tonight, we just seemed like we "clicked" or something, right in the middle of "Revolution Year Zero" - a new song we are just starting to be able to play well. There is a part where both Rick and I scream "HEY, HEY, HEY..etc." and I realized that I had not really been screaming it very loudly; I'd been timidly saying "Hey," with no power behind it. I think that by accident, I looked out into the audience and saw someone who looked like he was very, very happy that we were playing the song or was at least "really into" the music. I saw that person bouncing, and all of the sudden, WHAM!! ENERGY!!!! OH YEAH! I FORGOT, I'M ON STAGE! DUH! If that person is reading this right now, well, sir, Thank You.
We're playing the music faster now, which adds to the energy. I am not sure what happened all last week, but the shows just didn't seem to be going as well as they could have. Perhaps we were just very, very tired.
Albuquerque, NM: Easter Sunday, Apr 16th.
The experiences we have had in the past in this town make us think that we have done something wrong, to hurt our band Karma. We try and try to figure out what we have done wrong, but can't think of anything, so we give up and try to list the problems we've had in the town. The biggest problem I have is that I love this town, and feel like the town should reciprocate. (haha)
1) The Clown
Oct 31st, 1994: We get to Albuquerque at 4:45pm after another all-night drive, on Halloween, and race to the post office, because we need to send our t-shirt company some money, overnight. Joe needs to send some rent money overnight. We wait in line until about 4:55, and just make it to the window when we see an outraged woman dressed in FULL clown regalia, red nose and everything, behind the counter screaming at the counter postal workers, "COME ON! LET'S GO! WINDOW CLOSES AT 5! WINDOW CLOSES AT 5!!."
The rest of the workers have normal postal uniforms on and are moving like they are in some sort of dream, and we are frantically trying to fill out our money-orders in 5 minutes. I have to force the normally-dressed woman behind the window, with my hands actually prying the window-gate open, begging her to accept our money. The CLOWN is now jumping up and down and banging her hands together, screaming, "WE ARE CLOSED! WINDOW CLOSES AT 5!" I shove the money behind the gate as both women almost close it on my arm, and we go away very, very shaken, and have clown nightmares for months. We didn't even realize it was Halloween.
2) All Night Drives
First time we played here, we couldn't find a hotel room in Arizona because of a Renaissance festival, (there is a cartoon in Cake Magazine about this whole story, it was a hell-night) so we drove all night to Albuquerque; probably our first all night drive: we were wusses back then. I think we have always driven all night to get to Albuqueque, since then.
3) Nosebleed Stage
The first show we played, the stage was about 12 feet high (it was on the 2nd floor, and the audience stands on the 1st floor), and we had to carry our amps up a ladder to get up there. While we were playing we were terrified that we were going to fall off. The bathrooms were located underneath the stage, so anytime someone needed to pee, they had to walk underneath us. I thanked the 3 people who came to the show for coming; I said it was so neat that we had fans so far away, and they explained to me that their car had broken down across the street and they were waiting for a tow-truck and that's why they were at the club.
4) Really Bad Timing
Each time we play here, we play on a holiday. The first time we ever played, we played against a huge benefit with all local bands, a benefit for a much-loved local restaurant named Fred's. Last time we played on Halloween, a Monday night (Monday nights are notorious bad-show nights; no one wants to come out on a Monday) against Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. And it was some guy's wedding.
5) Wedding From Hell Story
So we drive up to the club and find out that we are playing some guy's wedding reception. We are completely freaked: no one told us this, and we do not know any covers. This was just supposed to be a regular show. Then we were informed that this is sort of a "punk rock" wedding; the groom is playing in one of the opening bands, and it's cool; everyone's going to the club across the street to watch Jon Spencer while we play, anyway. (We wished we could, too.)
A couple of hours into this fiasco, we are informed that the groom is very, very angry with us because either 1) we are playing 2nd-to-last and his friend's band wanted to play 2nd-to-last or 2) we are ruining his wedding because he wanted to play with Jon Spencer. This is the second time this night that we offer to leave town NOW, (more like "beg" than offer) but the promoter who is a very nice guy pleads with us to stay and we are told by other people that the groom is very, very drunk and angry at everyone for various reasons; some incuding 1) He did not get to play pool before his show and he feels he should be allowed to play pool tonight because after all, it IS HIS WEDDING NIGHT! and 2) now the pool tables are not open anymore so he is pissed and 3) He left his wedding ring on his hi-hat stand while they played and it has fallen off during the moving of equipment and it is laying on the floor somewhere in the club. . and 4) he is very drunk.
The groom himself comes up to Rick and starts yelling at Rick for offering to leave; "You'll REALLY SCREW THINGS UP IF YOU LEAVE!" The ring was recovered later on, and the groom did get to play his pool, incase you were wondering. Rick spent most of the night freaking out (and half-crying) in the van, worrying that we had screwed up someone's wedding. Rick is way too sensitive sometimes.
Wonderful Things About Albuquerque
The town is beautiful, New Mexico is beautiful, we love eating at "Fred's" (Pesto Bread!), and the people are very, very nice. Plus, each time we play, the local bands are great. And our shows are always fun. Albuquerque will always be a special place for us. And maybe next time we'll play on a weekend!