Monday, November 17, 2008
October 31st - November 14th, 2008.
October 30th - 11:09AM. Driving to San Francisco, CA.
With my eyes tightly shut, I held onto the neck of my guitar for dear life. I stumbled through chords. I mixed up verses. I played the songs I wanted to play, and then I played the songs people said they'd like to hear. It was a start.
October 31st - 11:50AM. Driving to Pomona, CA.
I felt excitement like I haven't felt in years. The thrill of playing material that's still new and fresh. The thrill of being completely unsure of yourself, of playing with new musicians, of being scared to death. Conceptually this is nothing different than what you've done thousands of times before, but you've been taken out of your comfort zone.
November 3rd - 2:47PM. Driving to Las Vegas, NV.
We didn't end up getting to Tom Whalley's house until after 1AM. The directions were confusing; we got lost on our way there. We had a couple glasses of wine, made a couple introductions, had some quick conversations and picked at the hors de oeuvres. Tom Whalley ended the party at 2AM. No formal announcement was made that the party was over, but all at once everyone knew it was time to go. He has that kind of ability.
I felt bad for going to the party at Whalley's instead of the after show party that Side One Dummy was throwing. I wanted to spend time with my new tour mates, be a part of the team but I've had limited experiences with Whalley and since opportunities to make new ones are rare, I wanted to take advantage of this one. Tom Whalley was a founder of Interscope records, he now runs Warner Brothers. He told me that when he started Interscope it was with the intention of creating a label were artists could be artistically free to do what they wanted.
Heather and I had brunch with Butch, Beth and Bo before heading down to sound check at the Knitting Factory. We went to a place called "Hugo's" in Studio City. I adore Butch, Beth, and of course Bo. While we were eating they asked if we had given any more thought to moving out there to Los Angeles. Being in the city and feeling like you already have the start of a social life reinvigorates the internal argument of where to move.
The LA show was sold out. It was by far the best of the dates thus far for me. I'm gradually feeling more and more confident about my place in the show. I have an immense respect for all of the musicians on this tour. I'm thankful that I was invited to be a part of it.
We left earlier than needed for San Diego. I was hung-over and could have used the extra hour of sleep. However, being that we were early for the in-store performance, we had time to eat before hand. In-stores are usually awkward experiences. Rarely do record stores have any kind of atmosphere suitable for anything other than shopping. M-Theory Records was no exception. I never know where to look when I'm eye level with an audience, so I close my eyes. The turnout was good and I had fun playing. We stocked up on music for the road while we were there, buying the new album from "High Places", "Vivian Girls", "Times New Viking" and "Lady Ga-Ga", all recommendations from Chris Norris.
November 4th - 1:18PM. Driving To The Grand Canyon.
I softly tapped Cheryl Hines on her shoulder and asked if she would mind taking a picture with me. She smiled and nodded yes. I put my arm around her shoulder and she put her arm around my back. It was a gentle embrace from both sides. Heather snapped the photo and then we all went our separate ways. We were standing on Fremont Street, in the old strip, watching a band play a cover of Loverboy's "Working For The Weekend" when Heather pointed Cheryl out.
"Look, it's the lady from Curb Your Enthusiasm!"
Cheryl was with another woman and two small kids. She was dancing with the kids as the band played. When I looked the way Heather directed, my eyes immediately met Cheryl's. She quickly looked away. She realized she had been recognized.
There was no backstage at the venue. I was in a bad mood, I wasn't sure why. While sitting down on a plastic beach chair behind the stage, watching Ben play, a guy came up to me, squatted down in front of me and put both his hands on my left knee as he started talking. I cut him off and pushed his hands off my knee. I told him I wasn't cool with being touched like that. Sometimes it's unsettling to be touched by a stranger. He asked if I would come take a picture with his friend who he said was too shy to ask.
"Sure, no problem."
I followed him over to two girls standing on the side of the stage. I introduced myself and shook both of their hands. His friend didn't want a photo; she looked annoyed with him for creating the situation. He started prodding and pushing, trying to convince her that she did in fact want the photo taken. Anxiety flushed through my body. It was a commotion, he was loud, and Ben was playing four feet away from us. The girl finally relented and we both posed for the photo. The guy started in to telling me about how much he liked my new album, he talked loud and close to my face, his breath was wretched. Then the other girl exclaimed that she wanted a photo. They started arguing about which camera to use and whether or not to take it together. I had to go. I walked away.
"I'm gonna leave now."
I don't feel right. I didn't feel right last night during the show. I didn't feel right standing at the bar afterwards. I didn't feel right driving to the hotel. I didn't feel right lying in bed waiting to fall asleep. I didn't feel right when I woke up this morning.
November 5th - 2:05AM. Flagstaff, AZ. Quality Inn.
I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time today. After walking along the north rim for a half an hour we raced to Flagstaff and checked into a room. We listened to the election results start to come in on the radio, NPR. Sitting on the hotel room bed we watched as CNN called the election in Obama's favor. We watched John McCain concede defeat from the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, just down the interstate from us. Then we watched Obama take the stage in Chicago's Grant Park and address the gathered crowd. It was a moment where I truly felt no cynicism.
November 6th - 12:12PM. Driving to Albuquerque, NM.
It's a seven-hour drive from Tempe to Albuquerque. We left immediately after the show last night to knock out a couple miles of the drive. Checked into a no-name motel, in a no-name town about halfway to Flagstaff. I fell asleep without effort. When I got up to play last night my amp started cutting in and out so I played the whole set on my acoustic. I think I may go ahead and do the same tonight. I think I want to try throwing some different songs in there as well. I still don't feel totally confident in my ability as a solo performer. I'm learning how to talk to the audience. I'm learning how to stand as I play.
November 7th - 12:19PM. Driving to Lubbock, TX.
I remember when I first heard Avail, Tim Barry's band. It was the album "4AM Friday". I was 17 years old and about to embark on my first real road trip, driving to Naples, Florida to Success, MO where my father lives. I had stopped in St. Petersburg, FL for a week to hang out with James. While there I had dubbed a couple albums onto cassette to listen to on the long drive, "4AM Friday" was one of them. It still astounds me that they were able to capture that much energy on a recording. I listened to that album repeatedly on my trip and for years to come. I still have the cassette.
With his hat pulled down low, the stage lights casting shadows on his face, Tim Barry is the spitting image of my father. The similarity is most noticeable from the side, around the eyes. I haven't told Tim about the resemblance as I think that might be an odd thing to say to someone who you don't really know.
The show last night was horrible. The stage sounded completely different than it had at sound check. My guitar sounded thin. I felt like I was playing ukulele. The input jack on my Gibson was also giving me a little bit of trouble, cutting in and out.
November 8th - 10:36AM. Driving to Dallas, TX.
We've been pulled over for speeding twice now in the past 24 hours. Once when I was driving, and once when Heather was driving. Both times the Texas Highway Patrol officer walked up to the side of the car, asked for our respective licenses, asked if we knew why we had been pulled over, asked if there was an emergency, and then proceeded to let us off with just a warning.
"I'd appreciate it if you didn't speed in the state of Texas."
The behavior seems completely uncharacteristic of stereotypical Texas Highway Patrol.
We left before the show ended last night, having to be in Dallas today for a 2PM in-store performance, and it being a 6-hour drive from Lubbock to Dallas. Last nights show got off to a late start and we're lucky the show happened at all. Driving into Lubbock I was under the impression that the show was at "Tequila Jungle". About half an hour away from the city Jill texted Heather to say that the show had been moved to a place called "The Foundation". We redirected ourselves. After load in and sound check we went down the street with Chuck, Jill, Ben, and Jon to the least Irish "Irish Pub" I have ever been to where I drank the worst pint of Guinness I have ever tasted. While ordering my pint I overheard a local pontificate bigotry against the country's new president elect. I bit my tongue. Coming back to the venue we found that in our absence a fire marshal had come and shut the show down. The promoter scrambled to find a new venue. The show ended up moving back to Tequila Jungle, which I was happy about. Given the choice, just based on namesake alone, which would you rather play? "The Foundation" or "Tequila Jungle"?
We listened to Ben's new "mini-album", "Last Pale Light In The West" as we drove out of Lubbock. The perfect songs for empty Texas roads.
November 9th - 12:04PM. Driving to Austin, TX.
I wanted retribution. The in-store at Good Records in Dallas was a horrible experience. The performance was plagued with technical difficulties. There was dead silence in between each song. I tried drowning my frustration in sake at a sushi restaurant afterwards to no avail. All I accomplished was making myself tired and thus more irritable. We check into a La Quinta just outside of downtown and promptly fell asleep for an hour. I had something to prove when I got onstage later that evening at The Prophet Bar. Yesterday was my birthday and I was determined to have a good show. I did just that. Heather got me a book of Bob Dylan's paintings, a Crass 7", two bird prints, and a decoupage letter tray with birds on it. She also had a cake waiting for me back at the hotel after the show. I drunkenly blew out the candles. If I made a wish it has been forgotten.
November 10th - 12:07PM. Driving to Houston, TX.
I have another in-store today at 2PM. Tomorrow is a day off. We plan on driving to New Orleans to stay with Heather's father. I plan on sleeping in before we start heading that way. I'm tired, very tired. It was a long day yesterday. The first meal I had was after 7PM. Not having had the chance to eat breakfast or lunch I relied on beer and gin to get me through the show. After playing I had Oliver Peck tattoo Heather's name on my chest, just above my heart, in her handwriting. I've though about the tattoo for a while now and I'm glad to have finally gotten it done.
November 11th - 5:17PM. Driving to New Orleans, LA.
"Check out time!" and the line went dead.
I looked at my cell phone. It was 10AM. With the air conditioner set to "High Cool" I was wrapped in blankets, wrapped in sleep. So much for sleeping in...
Having been told that a lot of hotels were booked up in anticipation of a hurricane that night be heading this way we decided that we wouldn't drive far. Calling around from hotel to hotel we got the same response, no vacancy. The Scottish Inn had rooms. $50 rooms, just on the edge of Houston.
What makes a hotel quality is often misunderstood. A mini-fridge means nothing unless it has a mini-bar inside of it, mini-bottles of liquor, a couple cans of beer, wine, and snacks. HBO is a joke, and the question isn't "Does the room have 'Movies On Demand'?" the question is "How many movies are available on demand?" What's the shampoo like? What color is it? Orange is a bad sign. Is it name brand or generic two in one shampoo plus conditioner? What's the presentation like? HOw are the bottles arranged? Was effort made? How much effort? Are there logos on the towels? How white are the towels? What about the toilet paper? When you check into the room is the end of the roll neatly folded into a perfect triangle? And then there's the wi-fi. Ironically enough, the more you have to pay for wi-fi, the nicer the hotel is. How many pillows are on the bed? Are there different types of pillows? What about the bedding? Is it an actual comforter? And the sheets, how high is the thread count? Is there a restaurant in the lobby? Room Service? Laundry? Business center? Is there a workout room? If so is it more that just a treadmill and an elliptical machine? Is there a water cooler? Towels? A TV so you can watch CNN while you exercise? Continental breakfast? What does the continental breakfast consist of? What time is check out? Are they flexible on it? Do they leave a paper outside your door in the morning? Do they slip the bill under your door to expedite check out? What about a points program? Are you rewarded for staying?
The Scottish Inn was 30 grit toilet paper and stained towels. The ceiling was painted to look like a cloudy blue sky. The door latch could no longer be locked due to multiple kick ins in the past. One of the previous occupants had reheated fast food in the microwave so the whole room stank of McDonald's french fries. I felt greasy. My hopes of sleeping in on this day off had been shattered. We got dressed, loaded up the mini-van and got on the road.
November 14th - 3:25PM. Driving to Memphis, TN.
"Are you bored or isolated?"
"Are you bored or isolated?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Well you're back here playing video games..."
"Do you usually go up to strangers and ask them questions like that?"
"Well it's just that you're doing that whole rock star thing lately and..."
I just wanted to play video games. It wasn't my fault that the bar had put the games in the back of the room. What kind of fucking question is that? And do you have to ask it while I'm in the middle of playing a fucking video game? If you absolutely cannot restrain yourself from asking such a dumb melodramatic question can you at least give me a quarter to make up for ruining my game? Fucking jerk.