Tour Story: Species Being October National Tour 2000
Well, here's the story of my first national tour, which happened to be with
Species Being during the month October 2000. The weird,
rotating lineup consisted of the large, disparate talents of none other than:
Frank Grau - drums
Mitch Cheney - guitar
Kenseth Thibideau - bas
Eli Good - guita
Graham Connah - keyboard
Me - keyboards, bass, guitar, percussion (despite all the above talent and sonic mayhem, I felt the need to
bring a whole arsenal of musical toys. Not sure why.)
Now.. I'm writing this a long time after the fact, many of the details
will be omitted, altered, or exaggerated at random. Sorry. But let's begin..
When Frank went to pick up the 7-passenger rental van he
quickly realized he could barely fit all the equipment inside and still have
room for more than one person. Luckily, he managed to make and upgrade to a
15-passenger monster with a V10 engine without much extra expense.
I missed the first three shows, which were in SoCal (two in LA, one in
Redlands). It was only a four-man lineup for those (Frank, Mitch, Kenseth,
and Graham). Since I wasn't there, I'll leave out whatever details I heard
My first show was in Salt Lake City on a Tuesday night. So we left Monday
night to start the first of many long drives.
Monday - 10/09/00
The band at this point (Frank, Mitch, Kenseth, and Eli) arrived at my house
at 10:00pm and I loaded my stuff haphazardly on top of the giant pool of
equipment, sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, and suitcases in the back. This
happened to be the first time most of these folks got a gander at my newly
bleached hair. Somehow I managed to earn the nickname "Mango" because of my
blonde 'do almost immediately. I helped kill this nickname quickly by wholly
ignoring people when they said it.
Frank, Mitch, and Kenseth were already deep into "tour mode." That is, they
smelled bad, they made off color jokes, fart confidence was well established,
and late-night energy was in large supply.
Eli came through with the road snacks, though we ate most of them right away.
One of the items was vegetarian jerky, which had the consistency of shoe
leather (and almost the taste). For this, I dubbed this oddly popular snack
"shoe." This quickly caught on, i.e. "Hey Mitch, can you pass me some shoe?"
We made it through Donner Pass nice and slow as the roads may have been icy -
hard to tell in the moonlight. People started to crash out while Frank and I
yammered in the front.
It was only around then that I realized Frank and I would be doing most of the
driving this tour. Mitch had no driver's license. Graham was
present for only a small part of the tour. Kenseth did
actually take over a bit during the first few days but then got a cold and
slept a lot. And Eli had no experience driving a large vehicle and so we
gave him a pass on that.
We made good time once in Nevada, ate early morning brunch at some casino
diner, and pulled over further up the highway to sleep in some nondescript
corner of some town next to a closed fast food joint. Frank has the ability
to sleep sitting up in the driver's seat. Since the others were already out
in the back, I had no choice but to attempt to sleep in the shotgun seat. It
was impossible this evening, but as the tour wore on and sleep became scarce
I found this quite easy to do.
Tuesday - 10/10/00
I drove us a bit further down highway 80 and we got into Utah in the early
afternoon. This would be my first time in Salt Lake City, after having driven
by it several times and never stopping. My old pal, Hope, now lived here, so
after landing in the heart of town I called her and woke her up. We made
plans to meet at her house.
Before then, we hit up a post office and a coffee shop - the Coffee Garden,
to be exact. Little did I know back then that I'd be back to Salt Lake City
four more times within the next 10 months, and every time I'd patronize
the Coffee Garden.
At the Coffee Garden Frank introduced us to the card game, "Palace." Though
it requires absolutely no skill, it ended up being a hit for the remainder of
the tour. Anywhere there was a big enough table, a game of Palace was scraped
together. It's similar to the game "Stacks."
We headed to Hope and Dean's abode, gingerly parking the large van in her
tiny driveway. Much meeting and greeting and catching up with her and her
dogs. Dean was at school - I wouldn't see him at all this time around. Hope
already set up sleeping areas for the five of us and blissful napping
Graham couldn't deal with the long drive, but wanted to play this show, so he
flew in just for the night. Frank went to get his ass at the airport. This
would be only night that all six of us would perform together.
The venue: Kilby Court. All-ages, neat outdoor area where Phil, the guy who
runs the whole deal here, started a fire pit. Cold, I went to warm my bones
by this freshly lit fire and sat in a plastic lawn chair just long enough to
realize last night's rain water was soaking into my jeans and freezing my
ass. I lept up, cursing, and then spent a while trying to dry my soggy buns
by the hot coals.
It was a cool place to hang out, but we quickly realized attendance would be
slim tonight. Phil explained it was a Tuesday after all, and the first rains
of the season were upon us. Whatever. The Red Bennies guys were
around, and the show started with some noise improv duo. Mitch recognized
the guitarist from a gig he played in New York.
We managed to cram ourselves on the small-medium Kilby Court stage. With all
six of us relatively unrehearsed as a sextet I felt like nobody could hear
anything. The best I could do to add anything worthwhile was to plop some
metal percussion down and beat on it in time with Frank.
The Red Bennies rocked and I wouldn't expect anything less. A lot of
hanging out afterwards with the kids who did show up. Frank melted his boots
by the fire pit and the soles became unglued.
Though Hope was hosting us, she didn't come to the show. That's okay since
she stayed home cooking us macaroons and other treats. She doesn't like
going to shows, I guess. Anyway, we hung out at her pad the remainder of the
evening and crashed.
Wednesday - 10/11/00
A drive day. We had to make it to Chicago by Thursday night. By the time I
got up Frank already dropped Graham at the SLC airport. So we're back down
to a quintet. Thanked Hope and hit the road.
It was highway 80 all the way. Not much going on except fast food and
listening to random CDs. The only real exciting event for the day was
stopping in Laramie, Wyoming to go bowling. We played a couple games -
I did well in the first but miserably choked in the second.
The New York/Seattle playoffs were on the television and we watched it with
the friendly locals a bit before leaving the alley and heading back on the
Thursday - 10/12/00
Made it to Chicago by morning. Believe it or not, this was my first time
actually hanging out in this city (after passing it on highway 80/90 a half
dozen times). We were wrecked but still wholly able to
make it through the day. Had a delicious lunch of Mexican food. Heuvos con
chorizo for me. Yum.
While driving around where all the clubs were Mitch spotted Angie on the
street. Angie was going out with one of the members of Sweep the Leg
Johnny who set up Mitch and Kenseth last time they were in town. That
band was on tour, which meant plenty of space for us to crash at her pad.
Cool. We had a place to stay tonight.
We headed on up to her place nearby and relaxed for a while, checked e-mail.
Our New York City gigs have fallen through, so Frank and I were writing to
distant acquaintences trying to set something, anything up. Eventually we
landed a gig at some cafe in Brooklyn thanks to an old LA friend of
Headed to the Fireside Bowl and loaded in. This would be a long gig. Four
bands. Hung out in the bar away from the noise most of the time. I mean.. I
like this club, especially the fact that more than half the space is wasted
on old, unused bowling lanes. But nobody came..
The first band was a bullshit teenage garage band. The only audience member
was their pal videotaping their big show. They played "Smells Like Teen
Spirit" and everything.
The second band was a nice, pretty guitar/drum duet but they were so indie
rock. During the course of this tour Frank and I would get very sick and
tired of "pretty, jangly, guitar-based indie rock" and here we are in the
world capital of pretty, jangly, guitar-based indie rock.
Then we were on. I played a lot of keyboards in Graham's absence. On
hindsight, I'd say this was one of the better shows of the tour, musically
speaking. It was pretty random and unpredictable what shows would work or not.
The fourth band was another indie pop band with "cred." Yet another rock
band, really. Frank and I escaped to the basketball court next door and shot
some hoops. Eli appeared and demonstrated amazing prowess at the three point
Though it wasn't a stellar evening, we got all the door money since we were
the touring band. Cool. Not that I'll see any of this money. We're talking
like $80 anyway.
We tried backing the van into Angie's garage and despite my warnings it would
obviously not fit, it was attempted and we gouged the hood on the garage door
opener. Oh well. We loaded our equipment out and parked in the street.
Sleeping was difficult due to the house dog, Tschepitz. Earlier it was quite
adorable, but now quite annoying, licking my face, jumping around on my
sleeping bag, etc.
Friday - 10/13/00
Yep. Friday the 13th. Sleep was great and we quickly hit the road for Grand
Rapids. Got into town and to the club, Arco Iris. Actually it was a cafe. We
were early and quickly learned we were to play sixth out of six bands.
Considering there is absolutely nothing going on in this town, there were a
shocking number of people 18-23 years old. Is there even a college here? We
killed time shooting darts at a nearby bar and I got the impression that
every night several drunken fights break out amongst the bored inhabitants of
this town. My impression became reality over the course of the evening.
Luckily, none of us were involved.
Anyway, one of the bright points was finally meeting up with the younger
dudes who comprised the ambient band, Arco Flute Foundation. Frank met
these guys on the "drone on" mailing list and they totally hooked us up with
a bunch of the following shows, including tonight. They hail from the quaint
college town of Edinboro, PA.
The first four bands were long and forgetful. Bad garage rock, or silly,
poorly executed Euro glam rock, or whatever. I spent most of these long hours
wandering around this bad part of town, waiting for some guy to get off a pay
phone outside a KFC (he was calling AAA) so I could call Jenya.
The Arco Flute Foundation was cool. We would get to know their set
intimately over the next week. I liked the three guitars and no bass and the
film projector and the slow builds and stuff. But by the time they were done,
it was already about 1:30am.
And by the time we set up it was about 2:00am. I was surprised people were
still hanging out, but as I said, there's nothing going on in this town. Our
set was average. We were tired.
Though we weren't legally supposed to, the guy who ran the place let us crash
out on the couches for the evening. So all we had to do was pack our
equipment up, claim couches and crash.
Kenseth recently bought the latest Radiohead CD, "Kid A." I wasn't much
of a fan, and thought they were a bit overrated, but he put the CD on as we
drifted to sleep, the speaker by my head. Around 4:30am I woke up to the
suddenly jarring, "Idioteque" which was like a religious experience. After
the tour was over, the first thing I did was buy this CD.
Saturday - 10/14/00
I woke up to the sound of the landlord yelling at the owner of the club for
letting us musical slackers sleep here overnight. Ugly scene. Before long,
though, the landlord simmered down and everything was cool.
We got coffee and treats and loaded on out. The Arco guys also crashed
there, and we started following them out of town towards Kalamazoo. They were
in two passenger cars with big storage bubbles on their roofs.
It should have been a short trip but one of their cars needed gas and it died
at the gas station. We had to call AAA and get it towed to a garage. Once
there they managed to get it looked at. I don't remember the exact problem
but it was fixed right away. So there were a few hours of tooling around the
parking lots of gas stations and garages on the outskirts of Grand Rapids,
MI, before getting back on track.
Kalamazoo was cool. Mitch and Kenseth raved about their Rumah Sakit
show here. This town had like one club which was also a restaurant. The whole
complex was called Harvey's on the Mall. I guess the Mall was this one strip
about one block long where everybody hung out at night.
We two bands parked in back and loaded our stuff upstairs. My favorite
Soft Boys record was playing over the PA - a good sign. We then chowed
on burgers and fries downstairs while getting to know each other.
It was a good show on many accounts. Opening was the local guitar/drums duo
with the name (correct me if I'm wrong) The Helles Dostoevsky Septet.
Indie rock. Then the Arco and Species sets. This was probably
one of the top two shows, musically. I contributed mostly on "percussion
guitar." Good turnout, and many people thanking us profusely for visiting
their corner of the world all the way from California.
I like these smaller cities - people are genuinely nice and thankful for
visiting musicians, unlike the teeming masses of jaded fucks who populate the
big cities. Fuck them.
In search of a place to stay, we somehow ended up being led to some party in
a large house. You know, one of those generic houses where five
twenty-year-olds live and decorate with funny magazine clippings in the
bathroom, an unused chore wheel hangs on the fridge, there's a cigarette
lighter attached to a phone cord dangling from the ceiling, etc..
Seemingly none of the people in this house were at our show, but they
welcomed us anyway (friends of the booker, I think). A lot of them moved
here from the less happening town of Paw Paw. Plenty of friendly chat, which
I'm usually bad at or shy away from. I impressed one 18-year-old
self-proclaimed computer geek by telling him I worked on SETI@home.
The real occasion for this party was for this one guy who was celebrating his
21st birthday. As the night wore on, he got more and more fucked up on random
drugs. From what I understand people were snorting ritalin
upstairs. Anyway, around 3:00am we were entertained by birthday boy dancing
for us like an idiot to the Trainspotting soundtrack.
Things eventually settled down by 4:00am. Mitch smartly was already asleep
outside in the quiet van. Frank disappeared upstairs. That left me, Eli, and
Kenseth plopped down on the couch. Somebody put in a videotape of the
Outsiders and we drifted in and out of sleep during the course of that 80's
flick. Stay gold..
Around 6:00am I realized I wasn't getting any sleep so I went out to the van,
waking up poor Mitch as I maneuvered into a barely comfortable position on
one of the seats. Then Eli woke Mitch and me up a half hour later as he
attempted the same.
Sunday - 10/15/00
After a half hour of failing to sleep Frank woke me, Eli, and Mitch up as we
needed to start heading out. Me and Frank ambled to the corner coffee shop
for some java and treats. Someone got Kenseth from inside and we hit the
long road to Minneapolis. The Arco guys already headed to PA.
It's a long way to Minneapolis from Kalamazoo, doubling back west through
Chicago. Ugh. Not the best routing, but you take what you can get.
We got to the club, 7th Street Entry, more or less with just enough time to
get dinner at the TGI Friday's across the street. So this is the hometown of
Prince. Mmm. Slightly overpriced chicken breast sandwich.
Cool little dive attached to a bigger club. The first band was already on.
Local improv conglomeration. While they chugged away, Frank and I went into the
bigger club to find some air hockey.
While the bands were playing in the little club, the big space had but a
single DJ. However, the place was packed with kids - and nobody was dancing.
They were all standing around checking everybody else out. Like Grand
Rapids, you could almost cut the tension with a knife - all the young
bastards looked like they were ready to pounce on any motherfucker who came
too close. Since I was 30 years old I stumbled around completely unnoticed.
We played second. Crappy set. Whatever. Tired from the long drive. Didn't get
a sound check. Couldn't hear anybody else except the nearest guitarist.
The third band was great - and the main guy, John Jindra, put us up that
evening. One of the better bands we played with on tour - if not the best,
actually. Too bad I can't remember the name of the band. Shit. I suck.
Actually I just looked it up: Animals Expert @ Hankering.
After their set we milled about and eventually unloaded and headed to John's
pad. He and his S.O. live in this amazing warehouse space in the industrial
part of town. We checked out the view from the roof of the cereal factories.
Stayed up late listening to CDs and shooting the breeze. A pizza was ordered
but I crashed in the back room before it got devoured.
Monday - 10/16/00
Got up early and showered. I started letting my beard grow - just a chin
strap and a little strip dribbling down from my bottom lip. Funky. Split and
spent a little too much time circling around trying to find a coffee shop. We
had yet to head all the way back to Chicago today. Oy.
Tonight we played at the Empty Bottle. We arrived late enough that it was
time to load in, but early enough that we were stuck waiting around that neck
of the woods all damn night. We got dinner at some weird buffet across the
street and brought it back in styrofoam containers. Meat and potatoes.
We were to play first of four bands. The other three were completely
unmemorable. One was from SF actually but I never heard of them - yet they
were playing CMJ in New York this weekend. In fact, around this time every
band was heading to NYC on tour on their way to CMJ. Of course, we're not
playing CMJ, like it matters.
And the audience sucked. In fact, there were only about four people there for
our set. Two of them were my high school/college buddies Dave and Tom. I felt
really bad for them having to sit through one of our most uninspired sets,
and embarrassed since this huge club was totally empty. Afterward, they had
diplomatic responses about the quality of this performances. Well, it was
nice to see them briefly. Why do my friends always catch the shitty shows?
Then it was just a matter of waiting for the other three bands to finish up
so we could load out. By this point in the tour I've been deemed "Tetris
Master" for my abilities to fit our countless pieces of equipment within an
efficient cube of space in the back of the van. Of course, that means I had
to motivate people to load out. It's hard enough to do this with three
people, much less five.
During the melee of loading out, we somehow managed to leave one of Mitch's
skateboards behind. I felt bad, since I was ushering people out of the club
earlier, but we did do a series of idiot checks. However, the relationship
between Mitch and Frank seemed to weaken due to this mishap.
It's really hard for five guys to travel around, cramped in a van, barely
getting any sleep, fueled by coffee, smelling and looking really bad, and not
have personality conflicts along the way. I'll spare you the details of
further personal problems, but lemme just say it got slightly worse
throughout the tour. Nothing really all that bad.. just lack of sleep and
frayed nerves making everybody edgy.
We stayed again at Angie's place, successfully avoiding Tschepitz licking my
face while sleeping on the den floor.
Tuesday - 10/17/00
Got a bit of sleep before slowly, painfully packing up and loading our
personal crap into the van. We were a little slow getting on the road because
we were dealt a delicious breakfast served by our gracious hosts. You can
meet some really cool, helpful people when you're on tour. Then we washed
the dishes, of course.
The smokers in the band (i.e. everyone except me) were all out of cigarettes,
so they decided to buy the on-sale carton of Marlboros at the gas station. Mitch
handled this transaction, while we all waited in the van. About ten minutes
later we were wondering what was up as Mitch hadn't returned.
Turns out the station attendant accidentally overcharged Mitch about $15 for
this carton, but was unauthorized to give him a return on his credit card
until his manager arrived about an hour from now at the earliest. Mitch was
arguing with the guy this whole time. Nothing doing. After complaints from the
others we realized this was going nowhere and we were already running late -
we had to make it Lexington by 7:00pm!
So the smokers ate it and we just bailed. This put everybody in a foul mood -
what a great way to start a long drive. Once in Kentucky, it became grey and
rainy. Though I've circled around it many times, this was my first time ever
setting foot in the state of Kentucky.
With minimal pit-stops we managed to make it to Lexington by 7:30ish, loading
out in the rain into this club, Yat's, which happened to be in some mall.
The kitchen was about to close, and we just made it in time to claim our free
(and delicious) dinners. Thai style rice plates. Yummy! This put us in a
better mood and we played an okay set, I think. We kept the volume level down
as requested by the management, but that ended up not being the bummer it
Since we were the only ones on the bill, we almost considered playing a
second set. Maybe we did. I don't remember. In any event, we wrapped up
Normally we'd like to hang out, especially since we had tomorrow off as a
drive day towards NYC. We even had a couple of college kids inviting us to
crash at their place. But Frank and I did some math - if we left now for NY,
we could make it to my folks' place tomorrow afternoon, giving us a free
night to hang out in Manhattan!
The others grumbled about this, but after loading out and getting on the
road, the prospect of having extra time in the Big Apple became more and more
pleasing. However, we still had to drive through the night and we were
already fucking exhausted.
Frank and I were too tired to drive and ended up pulling off some dark,
deserted highway exit to crash out a couple hours in the front seats.
Wednesday - 10/18/00
We woke as the sun rose and quickly realized we were quite near the locale of
the Blair Witch Project. Creepy. Back on the road. I warned the folks that me
and four strange men were about to appear at their house.
We arrived in Rockland county around 4:00pm and made it to my old homestead.
Since we weren't really planning to be in this part of New York, it was kinda
weird being back at the old house all of a sudden, but maybe it felt weird
because I haven't really slept much in the past ten days.
My folks were kind and courteous and smart enough to leave us on our own - we
ordered a bunch of chinese food for dinner from the latest, greatest
Clarkstown Mall take-out place. My sister Lisa was also around but busy so I
didn't get to hang out with her much. So be it - I wanted to keep these guys
away from her.
Kenseth has been coming down with something the past couple of days and not
really in the mood to go party in the city. And with a big, clean house
around us, and cable tv and snacks in front of us, there wasn't much
motivation to leave. So we didn't and got a full night's sleep for the first
time all tour.
Thursday - 10/19/00
Actually, getting a full night's sleep maybe wasn't the best idea - This gave
my body the signal that I was finally able to crash and I felt like I was
coming down with a cold. Great.
Well, we had to get our act together so I feigned health and dealt with the
long line at the shower, the laundry, and saying goodbye to Lisa and the
folks before heading on out.
Despite getting totally lost in Jersey (the directions weren't so hot) we
eventually found our way to the college station WFMU. Turns out the station
rox! Quickly met Scott the deejay who would host the show (and who will also
host Mumble & Peg on the Spring '01 tour).
Kenseth reparked the van on the street after loading. He was having a
terrible time parallel parking. Some weird old lady approached and tried to
help directing us by flailing her arms and saying, "Llll! Lllll! Llll! Llll!"
I soon realized the woman had no tongue. Yeeesh! After three failed attempts
at backing the large van into the tiny space she threw up her hands in
frustration and just walked away, leaving us tongued losers to do it ourselves.
We loaded in, relaxed, soaked in that college radio vibe and soundchecked. The
show was fairly okay, if I remember correctly, and there was some silly
interviewing going on afterward. We were slow getting our asses outta there
but we eventually did and thanked everyone and headed to NYC.
And from one show right to another! As I believe I mentioned earlier the NYC
show plans got totally fucked up over the past couple of weeks, but Eli's
friend Willy (a photographer who just moved here from LA) somehow managed to
get us a gig playing in the coffee house just down the street from his
apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The name of the cafe: the "Pour House."
So many coffee shops with puns as names.
So at least we had someplace to play *in* the city. We headed right there,
and started loading into the tiny room in the back. Every place in NYC is so
fucking tiny. Plus it was more of a dark "chill out" room and not meant for
live music - for example, couches clogged the entraceway, and the entire
floor was tiled.
As I was loaded in I caught sight of my old college pal Jeremy who I managed
to track down before the tour and tell him where I was going to be. Hot damn!
Haven't seen this guy in like 8 years. We greeted and I took this
opportunity to escape my bandmates for once and get a bite to eat down the
street. New York deli sandwiches and chat about old times. Nothing beats that.
Jeremy was kind enough to hang out through the show and at least act
supportive which is a lot to ask from him - he's still the brutally frank
dude I knew back in Binghamton, and I mean that in a good way, though once I
did tackle him to the ground for being *too* frank. It was all my fault,
really. Long story.
Since this wasn't a real "gig" and nobody "cared" we just started playing. I
think we even played two short sets to fill out the evening. We weren't
getting paid, though. Oddly enough, I think it sounded okay in there and some
people did check it out for a bit. And this would be the last gig with
Kenseth on this tour, for he'll be leaving to continue touring with Tarantel.
That is, after playing a show with Rumah Sakit tomorrow night.
That's right. Unlike us, they *were* gonna be part of this whole CMJ
business. Good for them. After the show, we loaded out, and those two split
off to meet the rest of their real band. Jeremy split, and I finished loading
out with Frank and Eli. During the idiot check some drunk gentleman saw us
and asked if we already played - he had no idea who we were, he just knew we
had to be a band. So he asked to buy our CD, and gave Frank $20 for it,
saying he knows how hard it is to tour. Thanks, man!
Willy then led us down the block to his apartment, where we loaded in all of
our equipment (up the long rickety stairwell) and went out to party.
Basically we took the subway into Manhattan and to some Italian cafe to eat
canolis and discuss life. Willy is a real joyful character. Back at his
apartment we chatted with him and his Russian housemate well into the evening.
Friday - 10/20/00
Got up late, sleeping on the floor of Willy's barren living room. Actually
felt a lot better than yesterday. Frankly, I don't have any recollection of
this day off in the city. I've been to NYC so many times with so many
different people it all just blurs together. One of the reasons, I guess, I
eventually decided not to live there.
Oh yeah - now I remember. We all went to midtown to the row off Times Square
where all the music stores are at. Frank needed drum supplies. We hung out
mostly in Manny's, and he also bought a bell cymbal for pretty cheap. Man.
The whole block was overrun with cooler-than-thou musician fucks who
descended upon the city for the whole CMJ bullshit thing. I fucking hate
musicians, talking about themselves, their good times, when they all just
suck and should find a less obstructive way to massage their egos.
Anyway, I do remember the evening - Rumah Sakit had their showcase at a fancy
club in Brooklyn, so we headed back that way and found the club. It was
hoppin', full of people drinkin' and partyin'. I was bored senseless. We did
manage to find the Rumah Sakit guys in the crowd and hung out a while, but we
didn't end up catching their show. We've seen 'em plenty and it would of cost
us $10 each to get in to the stage area of the venue.
But that was the last we saw of Kenseth. Frank, Eli, and I headed back to
Willy's and went to sleep relatively early. Big drive ahead of us tomorrow.
Saturday - 10/21/00
Mitch met up with us at Willy's and we all loaded the equipment down the
rickety stairs and into the van. The plan was to drive into Manhattan and
drop off the keys where Willy works and head off to Edinboro, PA for the gig
But for some reason - bad navigational skills perhaps - we just could not
find our way out of Manhattan. We crossed the bridge and got lost and stayed
lost. I'll spare you the details of our frustration, but by the time we
finally got to Willy's workplace he had already gone to lunch, so we dropped
the keys off with a work cohort and headed north out of the heart of the city.
Frank and I spotted a Dunkin Donuts - we were on the same page and both felt
the sudden need for a box of donut holes. So we circled the van around Times
Square as others ran in and got some. We enjoyed the tiny sugary spheres as
we headed out of NYC and onto 80W going through Jersey. Around this time I
actually looked at a map and realized we were waaaay behind schedule. At our
current rate we'd arrive in Edinboro around 11:00pm.
So it was a bit of a stressful drive. Frank took the helm the entire way,
speeding through Pennsylvania (which is a state that feasts on moving
violation fines, so you really shouldn't speed through it).
I sat in front, and we played a game where at each mile marker we
recalculated our arrival time based on going 60mph the entire rest of the
way. By consistently going a good 80-90mph, we pulled our ETA to
well before 10:00pm.
That is, until it started to rain a bit. We had a ways to go and it got dark
as night fell. We still were managing a good clip until we pulled around one
bend and suddenly came across the site of a very recent 4 car pileup.
One car was overturned in a ditch next to the highway. The others were
completely totalled. As we passed the only thing we heard was the sound of
one woman bawling at the top of her lungs as she sat in the grass holding her
head in her hands. That was harrowing.
We quietly drove much closer to the speed limit the rest of the way, getting
to Edinboro university and finding the lecture hall (Douchette) we were
performing in by around 10:00pm. Just in time, really.
What the hell kind of show is this? It was some apparently thrown together by
various students, including our Arco Flute Foundation friends. They
were all there and about to start their set as we finished loading in and got
to relax and watch. Getting to know their shtick pretty well at this point.
During their set I went outside and walked around, enjoying a few moments
alone as the brown leaves fell around me on this perfectly autumnal evening
in this tiny college town nestled next to a great lake.
We half-assedly set up our stuff at the base of the lecture hall. I couldn't
hear the whole sound picture that well, but it there was only four of us now
(me, Frank, Eli, Mitch) so it was manageable. We were followed by an
African dance band which was a fun juxtaposition.
Being we were on Arco's turf, we stayed at their house, which
contained most of them, and their significant others were in the house next
door. So there was partying with the kids while listening to This Heat
on CD and talking shop about drone-ish music. I went down the street to the
bar to buy a six pack from the bartender - I guess in this state you can't
buy beer from a store - you have to buy it from a bar. Or something weird
Hanging out with this crew kinda made me miss college in a way - the
ridiculously messy house with random junk as deco (like a pay phone in the
kitchen, for example), and the front door is always open and you can sleep
anywhere you like. As for me, I slept on the floor of some random room
upstairs where the resident painter of the house lived.
Sunday - 10/22/00
I was one of the first people up, so I stole some time in the bathroom to
shave off this chinstrap beard I've been working on the past week. I guess it
was just not working out. The rest of the gang began milling about. I killed
some time walking up and down the street, still enjoying the cool autumn day
- I miss this weather a lot, it seems.
Eventually we got ourselves loaded up for a relatively short trek (a couple
hours) down to Pittsburgh. Never been to Pittsburgh before. It looked like a
Bavarian village. Peter, one of the Arco guys, led us to his
girlfriend's sister's house, and she led us to a decent Indian restaurant for
We then hit the "club" which was the Millvale Industrial Theatre. From what I
gathered it was an old factory converted into a rock venue. As evidenced by
the posters up on the wall, this was the main venue in town for all the
"out-there" art rock and indie bands. This was going to be our last show with
Arco. They went on first, we went on second, and we were to be
followed by two random indie rock bands with obvious marketing behind them.
One of those bands was Rock-a-Teens. I knew I had a Mumble &
Peg show with them after this town back in SF, but I didn't get a chance
to meet them.
In fact, they didn't bother to hang around for our set, showing up just in
time to play theirs. So we returned the favor, packing up during their show
and bailing on this town back to Edinboro as we had places to sleep there.
So we had another night spent partying with the Arco kids.
Monday - 10/23/00
We were slow to leave in the morning as it was a drive day. Breakfast was
pancakes prepared in the significant other house. Yum! Despite all that I was
finding myself anxious to leave. The cool air and dead leaves all over the
place was making me painfully wax nostalgic for my east coast days of youth.
Sigh. Long goodbyes with the Edinboro crowd..
Anyway, we had to make it to Norman, Oklahoma by Tuesday night. FYI, that's
about 1200 miles away. So we had a lot of driving to do, which we did. I
don't recall anything interesting happening during the day. There was an
interesting excursion into some old Dutch-y Amish-y town where we got served
a rather inexpensive lunch in a stuffy cautious environment. A lot of
awkward stares in our direction.
At night, Frank and I (sharing all the driving at this point) were
exhausted. Suddenly Frank started complaining his eyes started spasming - he
couldn't focus on the road anymore as his eyes would dart left and right
uncontrollably. I demanded I get behind the wheel. Within about 5 minutes my
eyes started doing the same thing.
We took that as a warning sign, pulled off the highway and crashed to sleep
in the van right there off the exit. Not very restful.
Tuesday - 10/24/00
Made it to Norman by the early afternoon. Got our bearings in town, finding
the main strip where there was a large cafe with nice outdoor seating. We
parked it there for a while, drinking java and playing Palace.
Not sure how anybody knew this guy, but our host/gig-enabler in town was the
very generous David (and his girlfriend Sonia). He was gonna let us crash at
his pad. Until that got coordinated, we putzed around town, playing darts in
the tobacco shop, and finding a set of batting cages. Me, Mitch, and Frank
embarked on a few round of batting practice. Having not swung a bat in years,
I was quite sore after that.
Somewhere along the line we headed to the Oklahoma City airport to pick up
Graham who flew in to meet up with us for the rest of the tour. So from here
on out we're gonna be five people - Frank on drums, me strictly on bass,
Mitch/Eli on guitars, and Graham on keyboards.
Finally hooked up with David at his place. As a token of appreciation Frank
wanted to make him dinner, so me and Frank got ingredients for a
chicken/pasta dish at the local supermarket. After a flurry of activity in
his kitchen we were all eating like kings. Now on with the show!
The gig tonight was on the U of O campus at the "Top of the Park" whatever
that meant. It was a bit confusing trying to find out exactly where we were
to play, but eventually we came to learn we were gonna be basically playing
in the lobby of the student union. Fair enough. Couldn't park anywhere near
the place, so load in was a bit of a bear.
A terribly annoying (or at least young and inexperienced) local college band
played first and we could just tell they were gonna play way too long. Why
can't opening bands ever get over it and realize they should quit while they
are ahead? Or at least quit after getting their dumb point across? You know
you don't have to play every stupid idea you ever conceived. So in the
meantime most of us went down to the student union mess hall, got some random
snacks and watched some playoff baseball on television with the kids.
Our set ended up being pretty good. I think this was the only time on tour
where, during a raucous groove, it broke down to just me and Frank wailing
away on bass/drums, and the other three guys slowly worked their way back in
playing nothing more jagged than whole notes. That was exactly what I wanted
to hear at that time, so I was, for once, "in the moment."
Oh - we're not staying at David's tonight. Fair enough. We were invited to
crash at another big house full of random students. I don't think any of them
were at our show. God bless this country and its endless supply of 20 year
old college kids willing to put up the aging out-of-towners in their rental
houses. We got beer en route to their pad, and then stayed up
drinking and talking shit. They had a very smart dog - if you left cans of
beer on the ground he would knock them over and lap up the contents. I picked
one of several free rooms upstairs, plopped my thermarest on the floor and
Wednesday - 10/25/00
Had to haul ass to Albuquerque. So we didn't waste much time in Norman before
thanking everybody and heading on out in the murky rain. It was a long boring
drive across a less interesting part of the American Southwest. I don't
remember much of it. I probably slept a lot.
We rolled into town around dinnertime, exhausted from the highway. We found
the club Sprockets Pub and surveyed the scene. Right away we had a problem:
Nobody who worked there had any idea we were playing. Turns out the booker
who set up this show had since left, and somebody else rescheduled everything.
Since we obviously came a long way to play this gig they took pity on us.
They said we might as well set up and play for free as tonight's opening
act. Opening for what? Female singer songwriter night.
We ate some bar food and I downed a couple shots of Jagermeister before we
got on stage. The small audience came to hear women armed with acoustic
guitars sing strummy songs. But first, we choked them with 100 decibels of
testosterone. Five sweaty, unshaven, smelly dudes playing improvised metal
Stunningly, it seemed like people dug it. In fact, Frank went around with a
hat asking for donations and we made like $50. Maybe that's a testament of
his ability to charm people more than anything else.
Some of Frank's pals from San Francisco who recently moved to Albuquerque
were there, and we caravaned back to their pad. Had a little party playing a
double-deck version of Palace with 8 people. People had to work in the
morning (and we needed to hit the road) so we wound down around midnight. I
got to sleep on a couch that was about 66% my size.
Thursday - 10/26/00
Woke up super early, and barely scraped the sleep off my face before we were
all back in the van. There was a cute local cafe that had good coffee and
cheap, satisfying breakfast burritos. That hit the spot. Oddly enough, the
cafe was empty, but there was an infinite line of cars at the McDonald's
drive-through next door containing people desperately waiting to get a shitty
version of the same thing from an international corporate chain rather than a
perfectly good local business. Graham saw this and groaned, "Basically, we're
Our last gig was in Tucson, but we stopped in Phoenix first to visit Frank's
folks (say that five times fast). Some carefully applied speeding got us
there by mid afternoon. Upon entering the closed community, the guard at the
gate suggested we erase the profane messages we scrawled in the caked dust on
the back window. Oh yeah.. Oops. Heh heh..
We only had a window of a few hours to relax before heading to Tucson. We
took showers, soaked in the hot tub in the backyard, checked e-mail, fired up
the grill, made some grub. Actually, Frank's mom wasn't around - just his
step-dad, Artie, and he was wonderfully nice to us - even though he's a
republican he respected my decision to vote for Nader since Gore should
easily win California. It's funny how republicans respect that logic more than
democrats, who seem adherent to a stultifying two party system.
After our brief stay at the Grau oasis we headed south to Tucson. Our final
gig was at Double Zero - the name of this establishment perfectly reflected
its general qualities. It was a sports bar filled with total local yokels,
none of which could possibly care about live music, which was why the stage
was down in the dusty, moldy basement where nobody feared to tread except the
one dude acting as bartender/doorman/soundguy.
So we had to carry all our gear down rickety steps. To add insult to injury,
Eli fell while lugging his super heavy Mesa Boogie amp and sprained his
wrist. I guess that's really adding injury to insult. He was bummin' after
that, but still played the show. There was some opening band playing covers
of classic rock tunes. I had to leave and walk around town, peeking in the
windows of other, more appropriate music venues and feeling left out.
Eventually we played and there was almost nobody down there. So it was like
one last rehearsal before we hit the road for home. It sucks ending a tour on
a sour note, but we played for 90 minutes, exchanging instruments (at one
point I was on drums and Frank was on bass), or just taking turns getting off
the stage and listening to everybody else play for a while.
Now let's get the hell out of here. Loaded out and hit the road to Oakland.
It's a 16 hour drive from Tucson, so we started right away. Me and Frank
drove all night and well into the next day. Sleep wasn't happening, but we
were jazzed to be heading home and getting back to our lives. A large chunk
of time was spent discussing my ex-housemate Ben, a raging asshole who Graham
also happened to know and dislike.
Is that it? Pretty much, yeah. My first national tour over and done. We got
dropped off one by one and it took me days to recover from the lack of
sleep. During those rough days Frank had me get up early and help him return
the van to SF.