Tour Story: M

And here's the big story of the tour:

4/4/01 Wednesday - After work I walked all the way from the Mining Circle on campus to National Rent-a-Car near the Berkeley Marina a long ass walk. Got the van a white Plymouth Montana the most roomy rental van yet this year, with a CD player, and 4 quarters strewn about on the floor. I drove home and took all but one of the five seats out of the back.

Jenya was playing with Mark Growden at the Great American Music Hall. I packed my music equipment and clothes while waiting for her to return, during which I realized my sleeping bag was missing. Frank called and reminded me I forgot it in the van during the last Species Being tour and he said he'd bring it over but he never did.

Erik and Virginia arrived and we organized his guitar strings by note value. Jenya came home and we finally packed the van, somehow managing to create a flat surface on the equipment for which someone could sleep or be launched through the windshield like a torpedo in the event of an accident. We called this the "stunt bunk."

Having not eaten much all day, I was grumpy and so when we hit the road I tried to sleep first on the stunt bunk as Jenya got us way past Reno. This wasn't very exciting as I did this fucking boring stretch of road like 4 times in the past month. Jenya, our hero, got us well into Nevada by 4:45am. Then we ate at a truck stop diner. Mmm. Eggs.

4/5/01 Thursday - I took over driving during sunrise, listening to Genesis's Foxtrot. Only now I’m realizing how sloppy the playing on that record is (namely Phil Collins). When Erik took over I twisted my arm entering the stunt bunk as it was way too close to the ceiling of the van and I had no room to turn over.

Erik drove us into Salt Lake City, and we stumbled on some hippie veggie restaurant. Mmm. Nut burger. We also stopped by the club Ya'buts and our name was on the marquee.

I should point out Virginia procured a cell phone for "work" but we got to use it for our tour. Quite convenient, I should say, though I think cell phones should be illegal.

Nobody we knew in town was home, so we went to the Coffee Garden (my regular SLC spot) and it turns out Jesse was there waiting on Eli to pick him up. It's raining and he gives us a key to his pad. At the pad Eli was on the phone with his mom. Jenya and I crapped out on their couch.

Eventually headed to the club. Loading in was an adventure we pulled up front and were told to pull around back. Around back I drove the van way down the wrong ramp and waited for somebody to let me in. Being this was the incorrect entrance, nobody came. I finally put two and two together and found the correct load-in spot.

We were early. The soundguy was cool. The doorman was helpful. Everybody involved was just plain nice. Liza (who seems to be at all the shows I play in SLC) gave Jenya and I restaurant suggestions. We walked five blocks to get some burrito action at La Cha Cha's. On the trek back I spotted many references to bees and beehives in SLC's downtown architecture. Mormons like their bees.

The bands started soon after we returned. Alchemy was a rockin' 4-piece. Optimus Prime was a 5ive Style-ish funk band with Dave from Red Bennies on guitar. During their set Hope arrived, and we chatted for all of 15 minutes before she split. She just doesn't like hanging out in clubs. In fact, most of the crowd split by the time we went on.

We didn't play our best set to start the tour two broken guitar strings weird tempos for songs I ended up doing a solo rendition of "Nine" to occupy some time. But some people stayed and were drawn to our amazing concessions case (painstakingly organized and decorated with Xmas lights by Jenya). We sold one work shirt for 5 bucks.

Nevertheless we got $70 at the door great considering nobody cared, really. This set the tone for the remainder of the tour incredibly high door deals considering nobody cares, really. My feeling is this has something to do with Erik being a booker and the clubs are just playing nice, and has nothing to do with us deserving the money at all.

As we loaded out the back, some drunken freakazoid cowboy appeared, spazzed out about the door being open, hurled a 50-gallon drum at us, said "now you're really pissing me off," and slammed the door shut. The drum (which, as it happens, was left there by Ether over a year ago), missed us. Turns out this was the crazy owner of the club going on his nightly alcohol-fueled power trip. So much for everybody at the club being nice.

The soundguy opened the door for us so we could finish loading out and Jenya went inside to idiot check. I missed this, but while inside the lunatic owner cursed Jenya out for being around past 2:00am, and she yelled right back in his face, leading to a loud cursing match but not much else. He followed her outside, still muttering as we wrapped up packing. Erik made clear to the guy that he just fucked up his chance to get any Kork Agency bands to play a show there. The soundguy surreptitiously apologized to us for that dude's behavior, as if it was his fault.

Headed back to Jesse/Eli's. They left a key in their mailbox which didn’t work in the deadbolt lock. It just turned and turned to no avail, and eventually the whole lock shaft fell right out onto the porch in many pieces. Meanwhile Erik just walked into the back door which was open. Jesse arrived minutes later, we drank some bourbon, and we all hit the hay.

4/6/01 Friday - Got up early for the day's long drive, loaded out, and since nobody else was home we just split. Into Wyoming Jenya was giddy about the plethora of fireworks shops so we had to stop and get some. Of course this meant we had a bag of fireworks slowly getting destroyed during the remainder of the tour.

We got stuck in dead-stop traffic for a while. Actually got out of the van to stretch right there on the highway. When we got moving, we passed the scene of a devastating head-on collision between two cars. Nobody lived, as evidenced by the towels covering the mashed corpses in the unbelievably compressed automobiles involved. Ugh.

Down Highway 25 to Denver. Two days later this highway will be closed thanks to a late-season snowstorm. Arrived around dinnertime and loaded into the dive 15th Street Tavern.

Jenya and I got a bad feeling about this town punk fucks in the bar, numerous aggressive homeless people, a pedestrian strip mall one block away (which I traversed 10 years ago during previous cross country travels) featuring bland chain stores and obnoxious chain restaurants and clotted with off-putting strip mall types. We searched this mall for food Erik quickly fled back to the club to have beer for dinner. Jenya and I did finally find one place with expensive salads.

Waited around forever back at the bar. Jaime and bandmate from Danghead arrived without their drummer (who just couldn't make the gig). They set up for the alt-country-psychedelic set. Nobody cared or clapped. I having the standard "why the hell are we doing this" nervous breakdown only two days into the tour.

We played much better than last night, but nobody cared. Sold another single work shirt after the show and that's it. Yammered over the way-too-loud jukebox to the few who did come and cared. Discussed how all bands pass through Denver if only to break up their trip towards somewhere else.

Speaking of which, we loaded the van to head out that evening. I, Tetris-master, took Jenya's advice and repacked the van and somehow managed a new method that availed to us a less treacherous and more spacious sleeping area in the back.

I took the first shift just to get us to the next diner on 70, but it turns out there ain't dick on 70. Not until we crossed the Kansas border. I asked some (typically) misshapen Midwestern convenience store clerk if I'd ever hit a diner up the road and he said in another 30 miles. Sure enough, there was a weird 24-hour all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet for six bucks each. After eating too much Erik took over and I slept in the back.

4/7/01 Saturday - Jenya, dying from lack of sleep, drove the last hour on our way into Kansas City, MO. Found our way to the club (the Hurricane). Turns out there's a vinyl heaven nearby. Erik dove deep into their dusty record bins. I even found a rare Motorpsycho CD but didn't get it because it was $22. Of course I regretted not getting it later.

Erik called his pals Josh and Hannah (the latter from the cross pollinated Cape Cod/Oakland scene) and they met him at the record store. Meanwhile Jenya and I went to a nearby thrift store and bought me some shorts as it was fucking hot (unlike chilly Denver).

Met the gang at the café. Since we were fried we headed back to Josh and Hannah's pad to crash for a couple of hours. Yeah baby dreams and everything. Erik woke us up when it was time to rock. Hannah (who works there) was finishing her shift as we arrived as we loaded in.

With time to kill, Jenya, Hannah, and I went to get Middle Eastern fare at the nearby restaurant "Jerusalem." When we got the bill it was way more expensive than we thought turns out me and Hannah got lunch menus with reduced prices. What a ripoff. We complained and got the bill fixed.

We got back in time for soundcheck and then we played right away. A usual set including Erik playing a solo tune for his wayward homies. A lot of people were there, but strictly there to see the Elders. You see, we were originally booked with more appropriate bands, but on the wrong date due to some miscommunication. So we got planted on this bill with an aging Celtic rock band. Naturally, nobody cared about us.

Much lagging as Erik drank and caught up with friends and we finally headed back to Josh and Hannah's along with Sharon and Julie (two more relatives of the Cape Cod scene of yore). Hung in their den, shooting the breeze, playing with the crazy boxer dog, Lula, or their coy gray kitty, Monkey.

Sleep schedule fucked, I was the last to make it to bed and it took a couple hours to get into Dreamland. Once there, I had a lucid nightmare. It was great.

4/8/01 Sunday - We slowly summoned ourselves awake around 7:00am, got our shit out of the house, left a thank-you note and hit the road. Coffee, gas, and the highway.

Jenya made good time on the first shift, all lost when some woman of foreign descent at a rest stop pleaded with Jenya for information about how to get to highway 80, completely unclear of the concept that exit 80 has nothing to do with highway 80. Took forever to pry Jenya away from this spectacle.

And once in Iowa, she got pulled over for speeding. No muss, no fuss, and after brief, polite exchanges with the policeman Jenya became the proud owner of a $93 ticket. Bummer! Not much speeding after that, so we made lousy time.

Made it to Chicago by 4:00pm. Guided the van to the downtown area and the long trek up Western Avenue ugly as hell miles of slums and condemned buildings. Nobody at the Fireside Bowl. I called my pal Tom on his cell phone and he gave us directions to a nearby quality restaurant. I was hungry and nobody had any better plan, so we headed there for din-din.

Sat by a table of about a dozen grandparents exchanging stories about their grandkids (or their anxious longing for some grandkids already). Example: "My grandson.. 7 years old.. He does algebra!" Towards the end of the meal one of the older gentlemen presented to his stunned friends.. a blue potato! Anyway, ‘twas a delicious plate of sesame noodles, but not the Chicago stuffed pizza Jen wanted.

Killed more time driving around the downtown area by the big buildings, and by the pretty Lake Michigan. Back to the Fireside Bowl the doors were open so we loaded in. Ah, just like last October when I was here with Species Being, with the same archetypical Chicago-style bartender.

Met the local band Lozenge and had polite discussion about who was playing first, second, third, and fourth. Turns out the booker already had a grand plan for that. Also turns out Illusion of Safety were playing first. When Mumble & Peg went on that pointless NXNW tour back in '97, JOB had a show with Illusion of Safety which I performed remotely by recording my drum parts on DAT.

Despite the rough treatment (no guest list, no drink tickets), it was probably the most entertaining set of bands all tour. Illusion did his amazing solo shtick, during which Tom showed up with his gal, Dina, as well as old Oakland scenesters Tommy and Stacey. A mini Oakland reunion, and then we played our set and Tom/Dina split shortly thereafter.

Lozenge was hilarious (and even more so since that was one of the previous names of Mumble & Peg). They would fit in perfectly in the well-executed goofy Oakland art rock family. And finally, the band Jenya and Erik were terribly excited to see all tour, the Fire Show and they rocked.

Once again we sold one thing and one thing only. And we headed back to Tommy/Stacey's to party. We parked, and I re-parked in a closer spot. Caught up on the whereabouts of old Oakland friends until 2:30am. Erik slept in the van. Jenya and I got the futon.

4/9/01 Monday - Stacey and Tommy headed off to work as we summoned ourselves around 7:00ish. I was driving the first shift and too anxious to get the fuck out of town that we were wholly unable to find the quality coffee Jenya and Erik require every morning. Best we could do was McDonald's coffee, which was bought grudgingly and left untouched in the coffee holders until spilled out at some rest stop hours later.

We stopped in Ann Arbor for real coffee. The woman parked ahead of us told us that there was still time on her meter so we should park there. Almost jaywalked in front of a cop who I thought was giving us a parking ticket. No, he was just taking notes about the meter.

Nervously approached the Canadian border, minds reeling with stories of American bands getting fucked with at the crossing. But I think since we had a chick in our band, we were good as gold. Ended up being no big deal.

Four hours across pleasant Canadian farmscape to Toronto. Beautiful city last time I was here I was like 9 years old. Slowly made our way through the local Chinatown and to the club El Mocambo. Cool club but on an unparkable corner. Tried circling to the back alley to unload went down the wrong one which was nearly impossible to back out of. And the right alley was blocked. Had to load in the front, which was quite frustrating with all the main street traffic, and then I had to find parking a few long blocks away.

But now we had time to kill. In the meantime I was passing out from hunger. I needed a fix I got $20 Canadian out of an ATM and hit the corner Burger King like the lame ass American that I am. Then Jenya was hungry so we went out again got tasty Indian food on the opposite corner.

While playing pool, Emily arrived Jenya's junior high school friend from Poughkeepsie which she hasn't seen in 16 years! What a trip! Met her and her husband, Dave. Nice folk.

Erik wanted cigs and Jenya wanted film so I had to head back to the car to get some. It was a pain in the ass walk, but then I realized I was parked illegally, and re-parked nearby. Phew!

The Shut-Ins were on first. Local indie pop loud, fast and slightly skewed. Then us. We played a short set to a large crowd who couldn't care less. It was at this show that my damper pedal started to work only intermittently. Then the headliners Pony Da Look - goofy all-female keyboard/drums/bad singing/we're-so-cute stuff which won over everybody in the crowd except me.

Erik yammered forever with Dan the booker as Jenya and I coordinated the loadout (with help of Emily and Dave). Took forever to crowbar Dan away from Erik. All 5 of us crammed in the van back to our host's top-story apartment.

Loaded all of our stuff out of the van two packed elevators. What a great pad! Talked with Dave about computers out on their amazing scenic balcony overlooking downtown and the potential future Olympics site. Yanked off the stinky clothes and finally had a full night's sleep.

4/11/01 Tuesday - Day off in Toronto. Got up late and Emily took the day off the guide us around town. Went to the hip shopping districts. For lunch we went to a neat Thai kind of place. Hit up several book, comic, and record stores, but Erik found nothing special to buy for his prized vinyl collection. Still a beautiful city and simply walking around it was cool nice to be in a totally different country where I can speak fluently with the natives.

Began the painful load out procedure back at the apartment. Bye and thanks to Emily. And then we hit the road to Niagara.

Got to the falls at 4:30pm. I was there as a child, but Jenya's never been. Fucking beautiful. We all got fudge at the gift shop which was devoured immediately. Parked back in the touristy part of town. Window browsed the wax museums and other stupid shit until we decided to go on the straight ahead fare of Raleigh's for dinner. Burgers and stuff. We spent the remainder of our Canadian money.

Hit the falls one more time on the way out now that it was dark they reduced the water pressure and turned on the colored lights. Baudy. Hit the border crossing which was a slight ache in the ass but nothing more. A couple questions and we were free to enter our country.

Once over the border we hit the cell phone to call all our buddies in the Boston area as we were headed there through the night. I got a hold of Mark/Kim and they offered their place for sleeping. Sweet!

I stayed up with Erik as we plowed thru northern NY. Haven't been around these stomping grounds in a long ass while.

4/11/01 Wednesday - Man was I out. Woke up in a rest stop right outside Boston. It was about 8:00am. I called Mark and warned him of our ETA and he gave me directions to his job.

Once is Boston Erik maneuvered us to a main corner. He grabbed his bag and split. In lieu of sleep he was going record shopping. Jenya and I headed to Cambridge and found the building where Mark works I was able to get in and I surprised him at his carrel.

He took a break and guided Jenya and I back to his house. He set us up real good with a futon, an e-mail connection, and then headed back to work. Crash city! Woke up again at 4:00, washed up, ate some steamed buns we found in the freezer, and split to the club at 6:00.

The club, TT the Bear's, was on the same corner where 2.5 years ago we heard one Bostonian query another: "Whaddaya stuck on stupid?!" Loading in was quick. Rabbit was soundchecking and soundchecking was slow. Mark and Kim came at 6:30 and we told them to come back at 7:30. They came back at 7:30 and Rabbit was still on stage. But we soundchecked fast and Jenya and me headed out to dinner with Mark and Kim. They treated us to delicious Indian food, god bless them.

When we got back, the first band, Bluegrazer was already on. Soundguy's band. He actually read the lebofsky.com website and asked me about some of my essays. Then Bipolar Coaster featuring Craig from Erik's old band Earshot (and we found out later Craig was from Rockland County and we grew up a couple miles away from each other).

Around this time my old WHRW pals Jen and Paul showed up! I haven't seen them in years. So me and Jenya and all my buds sat around a table, yelling over the music about Boston music, catching up on the whereabouts of old band members, etc. These are the parts of touring I like a lot catching up with old friends in far away cities though I could do without the deafening background music.

Then it was our set. My least favorite set of the tour. Erik was ripped and exhausted from being up all day. Set cut short and for some reason we did "Hangman" in lieu of any of my tunes. Erik insisted on it and I refuse to argue on stage. But oddly enough we had our more positive response yet, sold a few things, met some cool people who liked it and gave me CDs of their bands, etc. Rabbit went on and my friends left.

I called my sister Lisa from a pay phone to warn her we were coming to NY tonight. Watched some interesting world music band through the window of the next club, the Middle East. When our show finally ended, Erik was still drinking, partying with the Earshot gang, and we finally loaded out and impressed everyone with our styley van with the automatic doors and everything.

On the road to NY Fog and rain all through RI, CT, and NY. What a bummer. Took us till 6:00am to make it my old house. Erik was so crashed he stayed in the ban. I found the hidden key, set up camp with Jenya and hit the friggin' hay.

4/12/01 Thursday - Got up at 11:00ish. Made breakfast of eggs, toast, and hash browns. No sign of Lisa. Oh well. We soon headed off the WFMU in Jersey. Playing a live show on the radio just like Species Being did there back in October. Even with the same host, Scott, but a different engineer, Jesse. We even got lost on the way there just like last time.

Anywho, we arrived at 1:30, Jenya and I tried desperately to find the secret FMU lot. Her wrist was bothering her she must have sprained it carrying equipment/playing "Hangman" last night. Luckily the station had several adhesive ace bandages laying around.

We set up I roamed around the station remembering the various cool crap this station had velvet painting, hilarious records on display, and a classic Asteroids video game in Spanish ("Juego Terminado"). Soundchecked and rolled tape. Played a 40 minute set which I thought was pretty good then recorded an interview and our answers weren't terribly inane.

Then we were in a hurry to get to the Brownie's show in NY. It was 6:00 and we were slated to go on at 8:00. Loaded out lickety split and headed for the Holland Tunnel. Bit of rush hour traffic. I rode shotgun and navigated, nearly leading Jenya over the Williamsburg bridge to Brooklyn by accident. She deftly maneuvered a wholly illegal u-turn right in front of a NYPD car to get us from going over the bridge and getting lost in Brooklyn.

Found the club (Brownies) and loaded in, and parked around the corner. The third band, Alger Hiss were going through their infinitely long and loud soundcheck. Booker's roommate's band. Jenya and I snuck out and got some pizza down the street. Lots of sausage.

We set up and line checked. I noticed John Berger (Erik's pal who set up with our last NY show) was in the bar. We said hi and he was introducing me to his wife when I was Heimliched out of the blue. Shocked, I found out the person grabbing me was my old housemate Jeremy. I saw him in October on my last time through. At this point, Lisa arrived alone. So many people to greet at once, but we had to go on stage and perform to our audience of 8 or so friends/relations (including my old pal Evan and his gal Suzi who I didn't get a chance to greet yet).

We played a decent 40 minute set and got the hell off stage for the remaining three bands. Those bands being the Liars, the aforementioned soundchecking band, and headliners Flux Information Society. Screaming indie rock sandwiched between new-wave.

I more or less spent the remainder of the evening outside gabbing with my NY associates. First Jeremy and two of his friends he met during a meditation retreat in CA recently. Then Evan and Suzi. They all split and it was down to me, Jenya and Lisa. We walked up/down the strip several times trying to decide on a place to grab some food. Eventually settled on the same pizza place we ate at earlier.

The final band finished playing to the packed house a packed house means 10% of the door adds up to a nice chunk of change. Once again we score money without deserving it at all. Erik, drinking by the concessions display all night, sold nothing.

Once the crowd thinned enough we loaded out, our equipment in puddles of beer and broken glass. Jenya went with Lisa, and I hauled Erik back in the van. Thick fog and Erik snoring the entire way home. Good night's sleep.

4/13/01 Friday - Got up around 11:00. Erik already anxious to leave for his old digs on the Cape, which is understandable but he's always anxious to leave anywhere. Lisa made us oatmeal waffles for breakfast. Same lame ass 4-hour trip through CT/RI up to the Cape of Cod.

After thick weekend traffic, we arrived in Hyannis, right where we played 2.5 years ago, this time not in that art gallery but in the café around the corner called Prodigal Son. We loaded in onto its microscopic stage. Erik found out quickly his buddy Jay double booked himself and so we wouldn't be playing this show.

Erik went wandering around as Jenya and I went in search of dinner. Ended up getting relatively good Thai food at Ying's Noodles. Afterward, on the way back, we ran into Erik and sister Lacey in the street and headed back to the café.

Set up our stuff. Chatted with Lacey and an old friend of Erik's he hadn’t seen in 11 years. Then Erik started the set with the butchering of Jay's tunes. After fumbling through five of those we actually started the first of two "lite rock" sets for the café crowd. The crowd was a nice size, consisting of Erik's pals we saw in Boston a couple days ago, or last time we were here on the Cape, or people he hadn't seen in like 5-12 years. Also one guy who was an actual fan who heard about the show from reading our website of all things. Imagine that.

Anyway we played a second set and afterward sold a lot of crap. More money in concessions than all money from any single previous gig on tour. Plus we got door money on top of all that. That was nice. However, Brett, Erik's pal who was supposta hook us up with a place to stay tonight, did not. Instead I coerced Erik to call his pal Emily who offered her place to crash and there we went.

In the dark we found her house (she was outside waving at us). Met her hubby Dave (another Emily/Dave couple). We all hung out, playing with their dog, Daisy, drinking, talking, observing the pet frogs and finally sleep in the den. Snore central.

4/14/01 Saturday - Got up reasonably late. Lounged around outside in the pleasant New England backyard with the gang and the dog. Coffee and chat. Thanks and goodbye.

Next stop: Lacey's place up the Cape, mostly for Erik to visit his niece Maya. Last saw Maya at age 1.5. Now she's 4 and a whirlwind of energy, singing songs on the fireplace mantle, running in circles while listening to the Powerpuff Girls CD, being completely entranced by Jenya's "coily" hair. We adults, meanwhile, practically collapsed to sleep on the couch.

Then off the to restaurant to find Brett who we missed last night but he stepped out. Killed time on the corner shopping for shoes, getting Jenya a wrist brace (her wrist was still bothering her), browsing an Army/Navy surplus store. Erik found the gregarious Brett and we went out for coffee and hung out a while outside in the pleasant New England spring air.

Then off to Hyannis. Jenya and I went to find mallets (which she broke in Boston) but the drum shop failed to have them. Erik went record shopping. While Jenya and I were getting sandwiches the cell phone rang and we refused to answer it. I walked the phone a few blocks over to Erik and it rang again. It was Shihzad (from NY)! I walked the cell phone back to Jenya. Very tentative plans were made with him in case we get to NYC early enough.

Speaking of which, we were now faced with the option of bumming around 2-3 hours and wiat for Jay to get off work. Instead we hit the road for NY, since I was bored outta my gourd. Bye Cape. Hello same damn 4 hour trip down I-95 to Rockland.

Arrived in Rockland much later and much more tired than we thought. It was early enough to make a jaunt into NYC a possibility, but late enough that after Jenya called Anthony back at our house, then her dad, and then her pal Ruth in D.C., NYC was an impossibility. That was fine by me since I got to hang out with my sister who was in for the night. Erik was bumming since we didn't stay at the Cape but Jay never called us back anyway so whatever.

We all drank and played the Simpsons trivia game. Then we hit the New City Diner a place I used to hang out in high school all night long. This place had a total facelift since then, resulting in more food options at incredibly high prices, but with the same quality and service (and that sickening "I can't believe I’m back in Rockland" feeling). Ate up, played more Simpsons trivia, paid the check, split, drove home, crashed.

4/15/01 Sunday - Got up, showered, Erik once again anxious to hit the road. Lisa made us eggs and toast. Another nice breakfast with the kid sister, and then goodbye and we hit the road.

Nice drive to Baltimore - a lot of cars but no dead-stop traffic. Got into town with plenty of daylight hours and patience for record stores. Headed right to the Fleet Street area which seemed like a cooler place to hang out last time we were here. Not so great this time. A couple record stores with nothing special. A garlic pretzel. Accosted by many aggressive beggars, all with long stories.

We headed toward the club (Ottobar) last time in town we ate at a nearby gay burger joint. No such luck this time. Nothing was open. It was after 6:00pm on a Sunday. It was Easter Sunday. It was tax day. Ugh.

So we headed to the areas around the many colleges but couldn't find shit except boarded up buildings and large residential slum areas right next to the school campuses. An hour of driving and we couldn't come up with anything better than a Hardee's. We needed food so we headed back to Fleet Street. The only place open that seemed reasonable (and didn't have a terribly offensive phallic pun for a name) was Admiral's Cup. Mmm. Chicken sandwich.

Back to the club almost 8:00pm but nobody was there. It started drizzling, and we decided to just wait in the van. Pretty soon a car pulled up and parked. Somebody got out and approached our van. He looked like my old Binghamton, NY housemate, Joe, but it couldn't have been him. He walked right up to the driver side window and asked, "Matt?!" It was Joe. Holy shit! I lept out into the rain and asked him "What the hell are you doing here?"

Haven't seen him in almost 9 years. He just happened to do a web search for another one of our housemates who I mentioned on my website, and then caught wind I was playing this show. He lives an hour south in Centreville, VA, at this point. It was a real blast he decided to attend this show, especially since nobody else came. I pretty much gave him all my drink tickets for being the audience.

Turns out one of the other bands cancelled, leaving it just us playing first and then a local instrumental indie rock band, the American. They were nice, but had no draw. As well, various members of that band played here in other projects over the past few nights. And being Sunday/Easter/Tax Due Tomorrow, that adds up to maybe 3-4 people paid to get in. Tops. And where were all the people we expected to come? This was the location of our best show last time we toured this area. This time, possibly the worst.

At the end of the night we were handed $30 out of sympathy. That and Joe showing up were the only reasons to waste this day in Baltimore.

So long, Stinktown! We hit the road south towards Asheville, where Erik's mom and step-dad live. Jenya drove first shift past DC. Then Erik. We all crashed at some point at some rest stop.

4/16/01 Monday - I woke about 100 miles out and took over for the collapsing Erik. He crashed but woke up to navigate once we were in town. And a small town it was woods/farms/random stores. Pulled into the family's property, loaded in to the guest house, and then greeted the folks in the main house. Colleen and Dinny (sp?).

Despite it being 2:00pm, they began to make us dinner. Incredibly nice people. Erik's step-dad is also a musician/computer guy. He had his share of tour stories from back in the day. I played their grand piano. Checked out their barn in the back. Skipped into the main part of town to the one music store and they didn't have the mallets Jenya wanted. Damn!

Back home for early dinner. BBQ steaks, baked potato, hummus and veggies, salad, and RC cola. Dee-licious. Shot the breeze some more then went around the expansive yard taking band photos with the folks' digital camera. Jenya napped and I wrote in my journal. Apple pie was consumed while watching Law and Order. Erik crapped out as Jenya woke up to have her slice of pie. I stayed up the longest, chatting with our hosts about work and touring. Passed out at 10:00.

4/17/00 I got up since I couldn't sleep and it was still pitch black. Then I realized it was 6:00am and I've been out for 7 hours or so. Tossed and turned till 8:00ish, showered, then while Jenya showered Erik came by and pointed out the major snowstorm going on outside.

Yay! Snow! I haven't seen real snowfall in years. We had mountain driving ahead of us, but I personally wasn't too worried about bad road conditions in light of the snow not sticking too much and the quick and varied quality/quantity of flake.

I stomached 3 cheese blintzes for breakfast, packed up and hit the road. Bye and thanks to Colleen and Dinny, who spent these final minutes videotaping us eating and packing a box of random food for the road.

Erik drove us through the Great Smoky Mountains. It was snowing but warm enough so conditions weren't bad as expected. Once through the hills we stopped in Knoxville to get coffee. At the shop we got directions to the music store. Jenya finally found replacement mallets there. Thanks, Knoxville!

Back on the road to the middle-of-nowhere Murfreesboro. Thirty miles off any interstate. Tiny college/redneck town. Found the bar (the Boro), and the friendly twangy barkeep told Erik where all the record stores were.

So we hit the main square to kill time. One store full of used CDs/vinyl all on super sale, but nothing worth buying. Lots of antique shops. An internet café. While on the sidewalk one person warned me from a passing car, "Jesus loves you…" Thanks for the hot tip. No place to pee, so we headed back to the Boro to pee.

Erik stayed behind as Jenya and I went back to the main square and had an argument about where to eat, fueled by fucked sleep/food schedule giving me crushing physical depression and pseudo-illness symptoms. I got my way: Thai food. Sometime in the last five years a bill was passed ordering every town in the U.S. to have at least one Thai restaurant. The spicy food kicked my ass back to reality, but also yielded me nauseous indigestion for the remainder of the evening.

Once more back to the bar. Tonight we were opening for the Chamber Strings, a Goth/Mod outfit out of Chicago on the Kork roster. They themselves were in the throes of a shitty tour. So on top of everything bad about this show, Erik had to have a meeting with the band and explain why they were having a shitty tour. During that meeting Jenya and I played pool on a table so slanted all the balls kept falling into one corner pocket no matter shot was played.

The PA at this club fucking sucked ass! Shitty mikes, too, on top of that. One monitor was fried leaving one single monitor in front of Erik. The DI for the keyboard was fucked as well, causing it to work intermittently. Quite possibly the worst PA setup I ever played through EVER! Couple that with the low attendance and this was one uninspiring gig. At least the tiny crowd was polite and applauded between songs.

Jenya and I marveled how great the Chamber Strings looked considering they were on tour. Glasses on wine on their amps ‘n all. But they had more of a "sound" which meant the crappy PA destroyed any traces of it. The bass sounded good because the bass player borrowed my amp.

Loaded out, got the sympathy "door money" from the booker, hung out in the parking lot with the other band. Erik made the executive decision we were leaving now for New Orleans. This was our final long drive, so we might as well do it overnight. I felt like shit so I slept through several driving shifts between Jenya and Erik.

4/18/01 Wednesday - I woke as the van was frantically pulled off the highway and Jenya and Erik, tired and flustered, were trying to figure our where we were. Turns out they missed an interchange, so instead of going directly south through Mississippi, we're taking the scenic route through Alabama. All told, this boner added only an hour to the trip, plus I've never been to Alabama, so whatever.

Scary truck stop in Alabama. Lots of Jesus paraphernalia. I drove the last half of the state down to the Gulf of Mexico coast and into Mississippi. We stopped at a truck stop diner, which was cafeteria style. When I ordered the grilled chicken breast sandwich, Molly behind the counter said, "you.. sure.. do.. talk.. fast.." Really. She said that.

Rolled into New Orleans, my first time there, around 3:00pm. We found the club, which was really a new art space/performance space/bike shop/live-work space the size of a city block. Running the space were a couple: Cameron (female) and Stacy (male). The whole complex was called A.R.K.

Anywho, there were signs this was going to be well attended, for reasons not limited to (a) much talking up by the proprieters, (b) actual flyers all over town noting us as "Idiot Flesh's evil cousin." The core of the opening band, Machine Screw, arrived and they were already drunk and friendly. That's how people are around here.

The three of us wandered up Decatur Street right into threw tourist French Quarter. Erik hit a record shop right off. Jenya and I kept on going, ending up in the mega flea market of alligator heads, beads, voodoo dolls, and countless pepper sauces with funny labels depicting fire coming out of people's bottoms. Whatever. When Jenya went to get money out of an ATM she then realized she left her card at the aforementioned truck stop in Alabama this morning.

Considering this faux pas, it was no big deal we recovered Erik from the store, and Jenya used his cell phone to contact the bank and get the ball rolling as far as getting a new card. We all then got coffee/lemonade at a café and headed back to A.R.K..

Machine Screw were setting up. Turns out they're 8 people including a drummer who only plays an electric kit, so soundcheck took a while, but since those guys would be doing our sound, we filled them in will the facts and didn't bother checking ourselves.

With the newfound time, Jenya and I went to go nap in the van. This effort was nullified when, just as we dozed off, Erik entered the van, slammed the door, made a series of calls right outside on the sidewalk, entered the van, and slammed the door once more.

So we got up, set up our gear in the backstage area, then went in search of dinner. The drunk keyboardist took it upon himself to show us the town. He led us back to Decatur and toward a cheap felafel joint. "Hell, no," Jenya said. He then led us into some nearby jazz club as if we out-of-towners cared to meet the local scenesters. We just wanted to eat. He finally pointed out the expensive nice place and split back to the club.

Slightly expensive but delicious food. It was actually really nice to actually have a real New Orleans hour being it was our first time in town and shit. Food was intriguing in its preparation. Waiter had a delicious accent. Yay.

Back to A.R.K. and nobody was fucking there! Same old shit nobody just plain cares. Machine Screw played to a practically empty house. We went on to play for exactly 9 paying patrons. Had a scare during line-check it sounded like my tweeter was blown. But then it was suddenly fine. My equipment isn't liking this tour.

Played an uninspired set. During "Bobby Smoove" Cameron did some fire twirling. Contractual obligation, I guess, being as how we're "Idiot Flesh's evil cousin," and shit.

We managed to sell one CD. So where was everybody? Turns out the entire A.R.K. staff and their legion of friends were down the street at another event a funeral party for their circus rooster. Cameron evening suggested we go there instead to play, but we were too tired, or at least confused as to why they didn't just have the party at A.R.K. as well. Maybe then people would have seen us.

We went home we Trevor, an ex-SF transient, who was working the door. He lived in a Bohemian mansion with like 5 bedrooms, 20 ft. ceilings, all for $500 a month. We set up camp in the front room and crashed, me and Jenya on mats under a table and out of the way. Shleep!

4/19/01 Thursday - Woke up to Jenya and Erik leaving for coffee. They got lost and drove around forever, yielding enough time for to sleep, finally get up, shower, shave, hang on the front porch drying out my towel, fail to get the house PC hooked up to the internet, and fumble through a bunch of photos laying around of a naked man about to lie on a bed of nails and then the close ups of his bloody ass.

When those two returned Trevor was just getting into the shower. Met another housemate, Jay, who also once lived in Oakland a nice guy. He saw Idiot Flesh in Houston, and even at that SXSW show where me and Erik did a Mumble & Peg duo. And being involved in circus stuff he also knew Virginia's brother Christian. When Trevor was finally ready we split back to A.R.K. to get our equipment, and then he headed off to a job interview.

Hungry, we hit up a nearby felafel shop for lunch and coffee. What a beautiful day. Warm and a little humid made me miss the similar New York summer weather of my youth. Sat outside and enjoyed the slow service. Ah, the Big Easy. Old Swampy.

Got on I-10 outta there and circled around the Gulf of Mexico. Long trip out of LA and into TX. During the trip with hit a gas station where Erik took over driving. As we left the lot a shitload of warnings came on the dashboard about the traction system needed attention and the ABS system is off. What the hell? We pulled over at the next exit and checked shit out all seemed well and it's driving fine. So we chose to ignore the warnings.

Made it into Houston around dinnertime. Erik lived here once so he knew his way around a bit. Ate at Mission Burrito. We headed to the club early Mary Jane's. Loaded in. Helped Jenya set up her kit. Played a round of pool. Read a really nice article about us by this guy Kwame who interviewed us before the tour via e-mail.

Other bands loaded in the opening band Lost Episodes featuring Erik's old record store workmates and the headlining band Japanic which Erik wants to book via Kork. All nice people. But still, we had lots of fucking around time the part I hate most about tour. While chatting outside with some folks in the hot humid night air I got accosted by "Little Randy" who overheard me talking about touring and thus he felt obliged to shower me with information abot his whatever big Houston outdoor festival blah blah blah who fucking cares. He eventually split and hit the blues club across the way.

Lost Episodes started. Loud retro psyche pop. Jenya napped in the van, the tour catching up to her and all. I believe we played well and there was a great turnout, including the aforementioned two people Kwame and Christian. I actually liked the set despite the fact we played both "Driving me Backwards" and “Sara Smile.” I manned the concession stand and sold about $70 of stuff to some people who were seemingly impressed. Finally. One guy couldn't believe there was such a huge art rock scene in Oakland. Japanic played their fun-to-watch new wave set. The crowd thinned. The guy running the bar was happy with us and the turnout. He got many stickers and t-shirts.

This was possibly the best all-around show of the tour. Except the while packing an amp into the van, that squeezed my personal luggage bag out the side door and into a deep puddle of wet clay Texas mud. That really sucked. Bye to all, and we followed Christian back to his barn where he and his new wife, Page, live with their dogs, Oreo and Joan of Bark. Set up camp on the floor. Took forever to fall asleep as insomniatic Erik stayed up watching some cable flick forever. Then the dogs barked in the middle of the night. Sleep depravation city.

4/20/01 Friday - Woke up way too early to the sounds of Erik watching a Nader speech on CSPAN. Dogs jumping on us. Christian headed off to work as we slowly came to, washed up, and loaded out.

Being as how we were supposed to, according to Virginia, stay with her folks last night as opposed to her brother (though the latter made more sense), we had to make good by visiting the elders. Nice people, all Texas style. Talked about country music, hunting, housing finance, and roadkill. As we left they pointed out the blood in the street from the latest squirrel death.

On the road to Austin! Not very far, but very trafficked. Got into town around 5:00, hitting Guadalupe right off all the hotspot I went to multiple times back in the day when I visited Austin at least once a year. Hit Ruby's BBQ. Meat!!! Then Toy Joy, some pawn shop, and some CD store near the campus. I say a CD from one of the bands we were playing with tonight. From the looks of it, this didn't bode well as far as having a "good match" between bands.

Sun was setting, so we tried to check out the famed bats at the downtown bridge. Jenya loves her bats. At 7:45 people were already on the bridge. We tried to find parking near the bridge on both sides of it to no avail. Eventually parked illegally as Jenya and I find an observing spot underneath. Erik couldn't care less, so he just split to the club.

We waited under the bridge until like 8:30. We could hear them, and definitely smell then, but only a couple pioneer bats came darting out. Being as most observers were on the bridge, we ran up there. It struck 9:00 and there were still no bats! What a rip! Suddenly I noticed just below my feet a steady stream of those little buggers flying out, but unless you were at the perfect angle you couldn't see them at all due to the lack of light. And that was that. We gave up and headed to the club on foot, disappointed.

6th Street was hopping even though it wasn't SXSW time. By this time Erik unloaded all the equipment himself and found miracle parking right out front. First band, the Meteorites were setting up and we lounged about in the outside area.

Two women approached us, "are you Mumble & Peg?" I'm not sure of how they heard of us, but they both were from Oakland, and one was moving back to Arkansas and they were stopping in Austin for the night, and happened to see we were playing. Cool. As exciting as that was, it turns out the two of them would be 33% of our audience.

The remaining 66% were Gary and Aubrey old Idiot Flesh fans who got turned on to us way back, and they brought two friends. As the first band started their set of whatever rock we all headed to another bar for quiet conversation. For some reason the waitress didn't charge me or Jenya for our cokes.

Back to the club. The joke punk rock spectacle of Sexy Finger Champs had started already. I drummed up a set list and sometimes I don't know why I fucking bother cut half the songs I wanted to play and played "Amore and Medication" and "Sara Smile” anyway. The place cleared. I'm not sure why the booker wanted the out-of-town band to play last but we still got a $150 guarantee.

Livid about the whole lame show, I drank up some Jager and washed that down with Shiner Bock while moping at the Red River behind the club. When I returned inside I found Jenya talking to our Oakland pal Andy! What the fuck is he doing here?

Turns out he has a new lady friend who lives in Austin and was spending time visiting when he just saw our name on the marquee and stopped in. He missed our set, but whatever. We sat around catching up in this weirdest of locations.

Loaded out and headed over to Gary and Aubrey's place. They have 2 dogs and 4 cats animal hair central. It was like a party of animals when we arrived. Meow! Bark! Ksssh! The last sound was the sound of Goldfish the cat knocking over Erik's water glass. At 2:30 we were passing out on the couch when an unexpected housemate arrived (you mean more people live here?). He was ripped drunk and with three more drunk/speeded/coked up wastoids being rowdy because one just turned 21. Great. Jenya had the hot tip: wear earplugs. Thanks to that I was able to sleep.

4/21/01 Saturday - Woke up to one of the cats walking around, in, and under our blankets, poking random parts of my body with its cold, wet nose. It was like 11:00 and we had to get a move on. After quick washing we all hit a café up the way, then a Mexican cheapo restaurant (after Gary had to hit his van's starter with a hammer to get it start). Got 5 meals for $15 total. Huevos con chorizo muy delicioso. Bye and thanks to the nice couple for their hospitality, then on the road to Norman.

At one rest stop Jenya bought a large bag of spicy snack mix. Looked like vomit. Tasted like shit. She coulda easily bought a mounds bar for one quarter of the price but no! She bought the big ugly shit and threw it away after two unsavory bites. This boner was the source of much entertainment for the rest of the trip.

It was a long drive and we started late, so we didn't get into town until about 6:30pm. Meanwhile Virginia flew into OKC at 1:00pm and was killing time in those parts.

When we got into town we found the closed Medicine Hall. Then we headed to the part of town I was before with Species Being. It was surprisingly dead for a Saturday late afternoon. No people. Stores supposed to be open were closed. Erik called Virginia to tell us where we were and we met at a café where I hung out forever back in October. Happy to see Virginia, we headed back to the Medicine Hall.

In lieu of dinner, one of the few people there said he'd make salads for us. These came almost 3 hours later. In the meantime we loaded in, Jenya set up, Virginia napped in the van, Erik talked shop with the guy running the show, Giani (sp?). Some guy, Gabe, approached me asking, "are you Matt?" and he said he was setting up the upcoming Species Being show here in a couple of weeks, so we chatted a bit. I can't believe I’m gonna be back here that soon. Yeeesh!

So the band Syringe we were planning to play with bailed because the bass player had finals and had to study, thus canceling the tour. That left three bands. Opening were Huver and Stellar Chromatic. The former seemed like nice guys but ended up being the worst kind of annoying prima donna fuckers just 'cuz they were on a major label under the name the Nixons. The PA was kinda crappy and they were giving Giani the hardest time because of it, then took forever to set up, bitching and moaning before, during, and after they played. And then the split right away. I wish all the bad musicians in the world would just shut up and leave well enough alone.

Stellar Chromatic were much better on many levels. Plus the guitarist knew and loved our CD and psyched about us playing a real morale builder after last night. Also met another guy, Adrian, who was fascinated with the Oakland scene and had many questions for us in preparation of an article about Vaccination Records. Dispelled many weird rumors that spread all the way out to this part of the country.

Then we played. People stuck around and dug it. "Snow Tires" was requested. Sold a bunch of stuff in fact, our concessions case was emptied except for one t-shirt we brought the perfect amount of crap. This and Houston were tied as far as good audience response. Cape Cod wins for most money made but that was pretty much it. Tour's over, dude!!

Didn't get outta there till 3:30am. Then we followed Giani to his house which is up in OKC. We were hungry, so the Oaklanders went to a Whataburger drive-through for late night snax. Giani, the poor guy, took a shower and hit the road as he had to be somewhere and it was too late to get one hour of sleep. We crashed on his floor around 6:00am.

4/22/01 Sunday - I was the last one to get up around 11:30. After showering, Erik was still putzing around on the cell phone. We waited for him to go get coffee, but his plans were to go to another part of town out of the way. So we decided that this would be when we'd part ways Erik was to head to Germany to do a ridiculous solo tour, Virginia was to fly home, and me and Jenya drove the van all the way back.

Epilog: Jenya and I made it to Santa Fe that evening, ate delicious dinner at some happy hippie joint, but didn't stay in town since hotels were too expensive. Instead we stayed at a motel near Albuquerque which wasn't all that much cheaper. Made it to Flagstaff well before sunset the next day and got food for several days' car camping, then headed up to the Grand Canyon where we got some glimpses of it before setting up camp for the evening. Hiked around the upper rim the following day, then sped all the way to Death Valley by sunset. Amazing place. We camped that evening in the quiet heat. Hit many of the neat touristy spots the next day, then drove to Yosemite. A three hour trip turned into 10 hours since Tioga pass was still closed and we had to go all the way around the Sierras. That sucked. And when we arrived at the park we realized we weren't prepared for bear country. I panicked and we headed back to Sonora to stay in a hotel there. Hit Yosemite the next day, hiking around the valley and up steel cliffs to the lower falls. Beautiful shit. Drove home that evening during sunset. Twenty miles from home, Jenya's excited, flailing elbow nailed me right in the eye. I nearly swerved the van off the highway in shock. Clutching my now blinded eye, I made it to the next exit. I was fine but poor Jenya apologized the entire way as my cheek swelled up. Returned the van the following day and got a nice chunk of money refunded due to the ABS getting all screwed up back in Texas.

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