RTFM TOUR part 5
Someone taped a circuit board for a modem to the back of our van!
That is the funniest, most awesome thing I've ever seen - I came running out to the van after the show last night to grab some t-shirts for people and there, taped with a huge amount of black electrical tape onto the back door above the license plate, was a circuit board - it looked like someone taped a bomb to the back of the van! I wanted to get a picture of it but the guys took it down, I can't for the life of me figure out why they took it down. I would have driven like that for the rest of the tour! Jim got a picture, but he doesn't have a digital camera so we gotta wait for flim to be developed.
Show Starts At 7
It was still light out when Summercamp's surrogate band "RADISH" went on. I can only assume they went on at 7pm because they had to get to bed around 9pm; two of the guys in the band are 15 years old. The next Silverchair? Summercamp is out in Rochester somewhere doing a radio show. We went on at exactly 8:05pm tonight and finished promptly when a load of people showed up to see us. That's pretty frustrating, I don't mind playing early but I don't like it when the club is telling people who call that we're going on at 9:30pm. What is the point with that? Just a silly mistake. We'll be back in Detroit very soon, I'm sure.
After the show we went to a small house called "Zootz" which had a show going on and a legendary electronic band called SILVER APPLES was playing! Rick was in heaven all night, he had that glow on his face that he gets when someone tells him about a new bootleg that came out with the brother of some guy's girlfriend who knew someone's uncle who delivered pizza to a guy who was in Can back during that month when it was spelled with a "K," taped through the pipes in the bathroom from the apartment next door while they were practicing. SILVER APPLES is 3 guys now with a lead Hippy called Simeon who was an original member. They sounded like a cross between Gary Numan and Devo and Suicide. Neu and Can were probably influenced by them. They had a real drummer, and the lead hippy sang in a wavery, medium-high pitched voice about rainbows and happy flowers and colors and stuff. The Hippy and the Other guy played a bunch of keyboards. It was all pretty strange and wonderful. I liked the Hippy's attitude. Rick and Jim both bought their new single which is distributed through Cargo. I bought a t-shirt from the Hippy at the end of the show and he kept muttering "It takes a lot of gas to get to San Francisco." I said, "I know, buddy. I'm on tour too." I don't think he heard me.
There was an awful lot of attitude in the Zootz place, dozens of smokin' 19-21 year old people drinking espresso. Sarge, our grrl-poppy friends from Champaign just played there last night! It'd be a perfect place for Salaryman to play. We're going to have to do an EastCoast tour when Poster Children gets back!
Afterwards we collapsed back at our good friend Liz's house which she'd donated to us for the night. She rules; I remember her writing to us back years and years ago, telling us she was about to graduate. We had been corresponding for like a year I think. I congratulated her; I think I told her how brilliant I thought she was. I asked what her degree was going to be in, and she replied, "Oh, I'm just going to highschool now!" She runs a zine called "Wind Up Toy." She did the most brilliant interview once with Steve Albini's cat, Fluss.
We are having terrible computer problems so I'm not able to write tour reports when we're in the car. Instead I will put an interview we just did.
We just found out that we're going to be in this CAGE match thingy on Q101 in Chicago - they will play our song on Thursday (May 22nd) at 8:30pm and then another song, and take votes on which is the best song. If you know someone in Chicago, tell them to call 312-591-8300 and vote - they take votes from 8:30pm to 9:30pm that night. If we win, we go on and get played the NEXT night, and it goes against another song!! If we get lots of votes, we will win!! (We are calling our parents and asking them to listen to the station!)
There is a Weird Grinding Noise when we Idle
We're sitting in the Super 8 in Albany-Latham, NY. Rick, sneezing and coughing, has taken the van to a dealer to get it fixed. There is a weird grinding noise when we idle. The rest of us are sitting in the room, watching the NASA Feed channel; there's a press conference about Mars. Howie is calling friends telling them to listen to Q101. I noticed that the guy at the counter of the Super8 this afternoon was the same guy who checked us in - he's been awake since 1am last night. Jimmie Soundguy went out into the woods around here last night and got his socks all muddy somehow. I'm glad we have a show tonight. There is a weird grinding noise in my head when we idle.
After the Show
Wow, this was a fun show! I am worried about the other bands a little - there were 38 people who paid to get into the show tonight. Not a huge turnout. The other bands played wonderfully; I just hope they can keep up their enthusiasm. They both have Lollapalooza this summer to look forward to; they'll be fine.
We made it to the club with no problem at all; it's funny, all this time I am so used to playing at CBGBs and now we are playing the Knitting Factory and it's in a totally different area of New York. It doesn't even feel like New York City to me; there isn't even a visible crack-house around here. The club people were all nice - but first let me explain, we gear ourselves up for New York City like putting on emotional armour. When I get on the road that's about an hour away from the city in the morning, I usually go, "OK, is everybody READY?" and then as we approach the Holland Tunnel, we start singing "New York New York" by Frank Sinatra, really loudly, and talk about the urine smell. It's a tradition and signifies that we all have our New York City armour on. I honk at people a couple of times as traffic lights turn green just to be irritating. It's all part of the ritual.
Unfortunately, the Summercamp guys were not in the van with us, laughing hysterically with us about people wiping their butts on the money they give to the newly-gloved toll booth operators at the Holland Tunnel. When they entered the club they were livid; Tim walked right up to me on the stage soundchecking, asking if I noticed that EVERYONE IN NEW YORK CITY IS AN ASSHOLE? I glanced over at the dreadlocked club's stage manager who also seemed to be waiting for my answer. "I DON'T KNOW." I raised my hands in the air, palms facing out. "I am from ILLINOIS. Leave me out of this."
"NO, COME ON." He demanded. "I really want to know. What do you think?"
I gave the most diplomatic answer I could: "I think that people in New York are assholes but they are sort mean to you in a truthful way, whereas people in California are nice to you but then are assholes behind your back." He sort of looked at his other bandmates and they all sort of nodded in agreement. That explanation was ok with him.
I guess the Failure soundcheck went horribly today; the Knitting Factory is so small and not set up as a "rock room" - we all had to keep our amps really soft. Apparently some of the Failure guys didn't want to turn their amps down, and the soundguy finally said "Well, why don't we all pack up and go home then." And the Summercamp tour manager I guess ran the van into a deer the night before, and a hotdog vendor today.
We had a discussion with our booking agent last night about how our market value could go down if we are not promoted well enough. It will be hard to book us more tours. I just don't see how it could be harder to book us than any other newer band that's not getting radio airplay or MTV airplay; I don't understand why it's any different than when Daisy Chain Reaction came out. It's hard to deal with people who are so depressed - I really think they all need a change of mind or something like that. As far as radio goes, before Nirvana, a band like us could NEVER expect to get on commercial radio. Now, a band like us STILL can't expect to get on commercial radio. SO WHAT?!
Who to believe
I think the Failure guys and Summercamp guys may have been depressed by the New York rag press; there was a bunch of press for this show. All of it said we were headlining, some of it didn't even mention the other bands, and each band got ragged on. We have "another faceless record," Failure is "trying to justify putting out a 4th record" and Summercamp is "unfashionable." In one rag, our songs were described as "no melodies; no songs" and on the next page there was a review of the Next Big Thing calling it brilliant because they "have no songs. if we had songs, we'd suck." Who to believe? The day before I read a piece about how brilliant our record was. Before that, someone described Failure as brilliant. Summercamp has a huge photo shoot tomorrow for a Japanese magazine.
I got it - Failure
Tonight I watched Failure and I "got it." As I stared at them, all of the sudden, I felt complete, burning, utter despair, as if I was falling into a black hole, and I started crying. I guess I finally understood. It was beautiful. I think it's wonderful when music can evoke such an intense feeling in someone. I think that's when it succeeds.
Thwarting The undercurrent of despair
We sat today in a "Diner and Vegetarian Enclave" and laughed about how upset everyone seemed yesterday. I don't think we're being cruel; we just have strange senses of humor. Howie said it best, "There seems to be sort of an undercurrent of despair on this tour." Jim said "Yeah, I know. The bands seem right on the edge..." Howie says "I think someone is probably just going to self-destruct soon or something like that" and Jim giggles, "I hope so! That will be really exciting!"
I have a Tamagotchi
A person named Jodi gave me a present in New York City, one of those Japanese Virtual Pets you've been hearing about. I started it tonight; it's a little computer-in-a-keychain, a little LCD screen with 3 buttons attached to it. On the screen a little chicken-like creature appears; it first hatches out of an egg. You have to press buttons to feed it and play with it and scold it and clean up its poop. If you do well, the creature grows into a "healthy, attractive" electronic pet, but if you screw up, it grows into an "unattractive" scary monster. So far I'm doing pretty well; my baby seems happy. Rick is fascinated by it and talked about needing to go to Toys R Us to buy one, for about 2 hours straight.
We listen to Failure in the van
Howie sheepishly asks me for the Failure CD, he's "stuck on them" - the Nurse song, especially. I tell him not to be ashamed; I'd been listening to it now for a while, like, over and over again. I miss them a bit, like being hooked on some sort of drug. I didn't know I'd miss them. I wonder what they're doing tonight on their day off.
We died and played a show in Heaven tonight
It's after the show, one of the best shows since Chicago! It was in a little fraternity house in the Ivy league school of Dartmouth, in New Hampshire; the first time we ever played this state. The area around schools up here always seems to be beautiful and very upper east coast; all the signs for the stores are all wooden and engraved in gold ink. Dorothy, the promoter of the show, told us that there are no chain stores in Hanover; only Subway and The Gap - the city doesn't allow chain stores! No Walmart to be seen! Green hilly-mountains and small stores, and white, old buildings.
Why we always look so happy on the stage
What is it like to play in a roomfull of about 50-100 people, so far away from your home, stop in the middle of the set, tell some jokes, have people laugh, goof around with each other, and then finally look up and see the whole room just sort of 'grooving' around while we play? It's like playing in heaven. It's why you see us smiling even when there's nobody in the room dancing at other shows. Because even though the audience may be different, we're the same band that played here in New Hampshire, and back in Chicago, and on the Terrace in Madison.
Afterwards we went to the radio station WDCR and got to hang out with a gaggle of college people, talked a bit on the radio and deposited a Salaryman CD, and Rick called home to see if we won that Q101 thing. We did win. At this point, it didn't even matter.
We're driving two hours south now to sleep 1/4 of the way to Philadelphia, in Greenfield, MA. We could be anywhere, but for some reaon, the fact that we're in Vermont makes it all seem even more other-worldly. We're driving in the dark amidst cool green mountains, and it looks like someone Kai's Power-Tooled the sky; full bright white moon and the clouds look like cheesy fractal blue in patterns with colors ranging from white to dark blue, designs you see in your screensaver on your mac. Except it's real and it's filling the whole sky. It's beautiful.
oh my god - we won!!
May 23th, Philadelphia, PA
Some Thoughts on Criticism
I just picked up one of the books Jim is currently reading, mostly because Rick has been yelling "ART AND REVOLUTION!" in a German accent, in honor of its title for the past hour. This book is about a Russian sculptor "whom scarcely anyone outside of Russia has heard of." I glanced at the foreword and read the following sentence: "Criticism is always a form of intervention...between the work of art and its public." Absolutely true, and since that is the case, I propose that good criticism is something that adds more to the reader's knowledge about the art itself. I would even go so far as to call that "constructive criticism", and I don't mean criticism that says something positive about the art. I mean criticism that explains, or offers more info. An example would be a critique of a movie which might include background info on why the plot worked out a certain way, or info about the cinematographer's views on lighting. About a rock band, a good critic might talk about the lyrics, or the beliefs of the band. If I was to critique us, I would probably talk about our lyrics and our way of touring, and our whole beliefs about playing shows. For Failure (and we've been talking about this within our band) I'd try to figure out why their lyrics seem to talk only about drugs, when they don't seem like a druggie band, and their fans all seem really clean cut and intelligent. That is a complete enigma to us.
Of course it takes way more effort to do this, instead of just going "oh, this band is unfashionable" and the trend today in news/broad(narrow)casting is to be as lazy as possible. But wouldn't you find it much more interesting to read real information about something rather than some failed artist's sour-grapes rag on some hard-working rock band? Yes.
Later, after the show
Wow, we won that Q101 Cage Match again! This is so great! Once again, people reading this, if you called in, thank YOU!!!!! It's really so neat to be played on a big station in our own home town!
This show sounded so perfect on the stage, but it was hard to tell what the audience was thinking. They all seemed happy after we played and people came up and complimented us, but somewhere in the middle of the show I felt like we lost steam. I probably shouldn't have kept yelling "Hi We're POSTER CHILDREN and THIS SONG IS ABOUT ART AND REVOLUTION!!" over and over again before half the songs. I just couldn't help myself!
Why weren't they at this show?
It's so weird. I remember playing at the Trocadero, a huge theater in Philadelphia, to a real lot of people, and they were dancing and happy, and bought tons of shirts after the show; just a couple of years ago! Why weren't they at this show? (hm... maybe the 21+ had something to do with it...)
I think something is starting to happen with Summercamp
The opening band Summercamp have now been getting on commercial radio - they actually have guys "pushing" them; they are a priority band on their label, and it's working for them. Probably by the end of next week, I predict there will be more people at the shows to see them than either Failure (who had radio airplay months ago) or us (who possibly could get radio airplay, maybe!!!). It's weird. They are very nice, but their tour manager says they are overwhelmed with all the attention that is being paid to them; photo shoots, etc. They'll be playing Wash DC with us in a couple of days, and since they're first, they'll get sort of a cool reception, but then about a week later, they're playing the radio show there, same town, and it's gonna be packed for them! It must be really strange for them!
I was in a REALLY pissy mood today all day, and if I was mean to anyone at the show tonight I'm sorry. I am really sick again; I'm coughing badly, and I think I have a fever, on top of it all. I don't know why I keep getting ill on the road.