One thing about Buffalo is that it seems quite hard to score a good cup of coffee. The bars stay open until 4 am, billboards would have you believe that strip clubs filled with "glamorous" Canadian beauties are on every corner, just about anyone you speak with will buy you a drink, and you just know that you could get an order of wings from any restaurant, but java? No luck. Paul behind the bar looks a little doubtful, but he says he'll try to scare some up for me.
All day in the van, kids. I've come to the conclusion that it's really not about well you all play together, what really matters is how well you share a van. In 81/2 hours, one can really annoy one's bandmates, or especially vice versa. Not to infer that it was a bad ride, because we all still love each other at this point in the game.
The day started with much finagling and confusion as Clyde and I went out to the airport to pick up the rental van. Perhaps we're turning into big wuss-faces, but we decided to give Doug the van a little rest on this jaunt. Not to imply that an '88 Dodge Van with a broken odometer should inspire anything but the utmost confidence, but we got a deal, see? We were supposed to have a minivan (which, for some reason, we thought would be more than adequate because "Quick fix used one on their tour"-'course Quick fix is a trio). Anyway, they upgraded us to a monstrosity of an SUV-the Ford Penetrator or something. It's nicer than anything we've ever traveled in-bar the bus, of course. Now if only we could find our driver...oh, right.
We left only an hour late (which is virtually on time in Pills time and an hour early to a certain rhythm guitarist) and had a smoooooth ride. There's a hell of a lot to be said for a nice stereo on a long ride. Clyde started driving with the traditional morning mellowness of the Dead Kennedys. Then I picked a mix tape which I made for Dave (which I firmly believe should count as Dave's choice, but I was outvoted and had to count it as mine). Jamie had a minidisc of Revolver and Dave got us all fired up for the long drive with the Magnetic Fields. I then deftly negotiated a play of "Band On The Run" by implying that it was Clyde's idea. Then, in an especially bold move before the first show of a tour, we listened to the rough mixes of our new album. No recriminations stuck, nobody cried or pouted so I have high hopes for the album.
We all have standard roles that we assume on a road trip. Jamie doesn't usually speak too much in the van (drummer, you know), I rabbit incessantly and Dave does a very entertaining act we call "not a very good driver at all". Clyde says "hey" whenever we pass a field with...hay. Oh, I've heard him do it a thousand times and it just gets funnier and funnier. Inevitably, when someone starts a story with the phrase "Did I ever tell you about the time...?", he is met with a chorus of "yes, at least twice" because we've all heard each other's jokes and family stories by now. I'm sure I'm really annoying in the van, you could ask the others, but perhaps that is the big advantage of being the keeper of the tour diary.
We just met Dressy Bessy from Denver who are playing with us. They seem very nice and I'm looking forward to hearing them. We are playing at the Mohawk-a dingy, cold biker bar that is actually a great place to play. We always do well at this type of venue: 2 mics, no soundman, no soundcheck and decorated almost exclusively by promo photos on the wall.
There is a well written two page spread on us in the local arts paper. Hopefully the insightful observations of your truly will bring out the faithful on a cold Tuesday night-or more likely a couple of hags who look faithful-as in Marianne, these days.
Right now we are waiting for the savior of rock in Buffalo, Marty, to bring us the dinner that he has specially cooked for us. He has a notorious crash pad called the Death Ranch (where one can wonder which couch Kim from the Muffs slept on) and he cooks for the bands. What more could one want?
Cool. The Minders came to the show tonight. They are a really cool band from Portland, OR that is on Spinart and we are playing with them tomorrow night. They had the night off so they stopped in and we play "Picture Book" in their honor. They all profess to be impressed. All 3 other Pills have bought me shots at midnight as it turns into my birthday (by bar time, anyway). Other drinks are consumed and I quickly become drunkypoo. On a positive note, drunk Corin usually sells more merch. The show was an 8 out of 10. Some very odd guitar sounds occurring whenever poor Clyde tried to lean in and sing his backups into Dave's mic. He hates that, and I do sympathize. We did all new stuff except for "Devil's Song" and "Soft" and it all went over really well.
I woke up at the Death Ranch at 9 am feeling much, much older than when I went to bed. I couldn't get back to sleep and read for a while. Around 11, I wandered downstairs to find some fucked up scene with Dave and Clyde laying next to a fire listening to a live version of "InAGada Davida" which is somehow even longer than the studio version. Saint Marty bought me a birthday cake. I've been trying to watch my gorilla-ish figure, but you know.
I managed to get the boys up and scrubbed and into the van. As a special birthday request, we are going to go to Cleveland early so I can see the Lennon display at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame. The display is pretty cool. I happen to have an interest in looking at the guitars of rock stars. I actually talked a security guard into letting me play Lennon's Steinway for my birthday. The deal was that I could play a few chords and then she would yell at me and chase me off. I chose C and F which was good because she really acted like a C and F when she yelled at me.
The display ended with a Plexiglas cube containing the glasses John Lennon was wearing when he was killed. They were all smeared and spattered with chocolate brown dried blood. It was truly heavy and really put things in perspective in the truest Spinal Tap definition. I had all these grandiose thoughts of being part of some great rock and roll continuum. Then I remembered that I was in Cleveland.
We're playing at the Beachland Ballroom- well, actually the tavern connected to the ballroom, which I believe is a Croatian social club of some sort. This gig was actually just something I booked as a filler between other dates so we wouldn't be sitting in a hotel room on a Wed. night. A pizza and gas money gig. It was the usual scenario where we show up about an hour after we were told to and then wait another hour for anyone to show up and let us in. There sure is a lot of high quality waiting around in rock. We're playing with Minders and Fuck . My personal vow is to play really, really well tonight. It's the only thing to do in the first slot on a Wednesday night in Cleveland. Nobody expects very much from some lame first slot band, so that's when you can really blow some minds if you work. We have a saying (which we borrowed from a NYC band called Shake Appeal): Every night is Budokan. We're only half kidding, too.
later in Cleveland...
GREAT SHOW. The place filled up really nicely and we had a really good set. Some friends of super-record-store-owner Deb Klein's came and it was cool to have some ringers in the place. A couple of guys from the late, lamented Revellers came out and it was really good to see them again. They and the waitresses introduced me to a drink called a "Car Bomb" which is Guinness, Jamesons and a shot of Bailey's. I drank a whole bunch of those and got really wrinkled. That's when I started making phone calls and telling people how much I love them. If you didn't get a call, count yourself lucky that I didn't have your number with me.
We made some new fans in Cleveland. The club owner said that we are great and come back anytime and "it's just a shame I don't have any money for you". Didn't get the fucking pizza, either.
Loooooong drive to Peoria-about 9 hours. Somewhere along the way, poor Dave said "you know, these cheesy poofs are really cheesy and good, but they stain your fingers" and some really disturbing mother jokes flew about. I think even the Ford Penetrator was offended. Today we listened to Dressy Bessy, Blondie, Dusty in Memphis, Radiohead, one of Mike Nesmith's solo albums and the Nuge's "Intensity In 10 Cities" which Clyde got me for my birthday. It's not the remastered version with all the bonus tracks (french esp version of "My Love Is Like A Tire Iron", anyone?).
We are playing at the student center of Bradlee University tonight and it looks pretty promising. Tom, the radio guy who petitioned his student activities people to bring us here is a diamond geezer, as they say. The opening act was two girls who looked about 14 singing a song about losing a contact lens-very well, I might add. Did I mention that I'm really, really old?
Another good show, though. We played for a bout 75 kids who appeared to be the cool minority at the school. Tom's band, the Kilowatts, were really quite good. He told us that it's always the same kids at every show and that a lot of them are actually still in High School. He said that a lot of the kids at the school don't particularly like music and, in general, are so apathetic that it wouldn't matter who they brought to the school to play. They mostly just stay in their dorm rooms. I don't know about that, but the kids we played for were pretty cool. Cool, in my definition of the word, mind you, which probably does not match the mindset of the dorm-stayers. We played a lot of songs from the first album since that's the one that they knew. Sadly, we kept getting requests for "Nicola" which we haven't played in about a year. I had kind've hoped that one would resonate with "the kids" and it seems to have done so. Now we'll just have to learn how to play it again.
We sold quite a lot of merch and got half a buttload of new names on the mailing list. During the show, I mentioned that we were mostly interested in meeting the "stoner chicks"-that went over well. Mostly we met punker dudes, of course. Believe it or not, we even got invited to a party in the dorms. I haven't even though about a party in the dorms for at least 8 years, and I was almost curious to see what would be going on. Discretion being the better part of valor, however, we demurred. It might have been cool, but I see us being asked to buy alcohol for people and being called "sir".
We stayed at the home of the radio station's music director, Danni. She's got a bunch of roommates and a big old house so there were lots of extra couches and rooms -all of which were elegantly trashed in a style that could only be described as "post-apocalyptic chic". College decorating skills in a nutshell: every room is trashed to the point of silliness, plastic cups and cigarette butts littering every flat surface, and yet there is art on every wall. Some cool shit, too. Danni is a madwoman who flits around on some sort of nervous energy. She let me listen to her Dolly Parton CD. It's a bluegrass album called "Little Sparrow" and when I said how much I liked it, Danni insisted on giving it to me. She even cooked us breakfast before sending us off to Chicago, bless her little cotton socks.
Chicago is ours, rock fans. We own it now. We lifted our musical legs and marked it as Pills territory (except for Dave who has a little hitch in his giddyup). We played at a small downstairs club called the Underground Lounge off of Clark St. There were a lot of cool shops along Clark St. and we actually got to Chicago around 3 PM and had a chance to cruise around for a while.
The club kind of dicked us around a bit. We were supposed to play second, around 11:30 and had been promoting the show that way. When we got there, someone arbitrarily decided that we should play first since we are the out of town band. So, since we were working on the chaos theory of random show promotion, I booked up to Kinko's and made a shitload of flyers for our show. I put our logo and wrote "your new favorite band" with show info. The Soft Boys show was right up the street from us and would be letting out just as we got started so I stood out front and handed out flyers to everyone going in. I figured that they would draw a lot of pop fans (especially of the mid 30s, works in a record store, doesn't like the shit then kids today listen to-sort) so I made up some quote about us sounding like Material Issue. The people were very nice, actually, they all took a flyer and we pretty much packed out the club. Jamie's parents came from Madison and the club wouldn't let his sister in because she's only 20. Thanks, you turds. The doorman would not listen to our reasonable pleading, cajoling and questioning of his manhood and she had to drive back to Madison. Then the soundguy started bugging us to start playing at 10 instead of 10:30. He was a nice enough guy, actually, and bought us drinks. We have been in a lot of clubs with nervous soundmen, though, and utilized the appropriate set-time delay trick of agreeing to start early and then taking turns wandering off just when he thought we were ready to play. It's an old Apache Indian trick, actually.
So, the thing is, pissed off Pills play hard. We ripped that place a new one. The audience was super responsive and were screaming out after every song. The boys indulged my Cheap Trick fantasies and we played "He's A Whore". We have been starting with "Crawling Out Of My Skin", "Devil's Song" "Apologize" and "Mandy" and then mixing up some new songs and a few old favorites. Anyway, there was rock and we got an encore. Now I know most out of town bands don't get encores on the first slot, but it's just a thing that happens to us now and again.
We sold a buttload of merch and filled up all the pages in our mailing list. We met some really cool guys who work for a big distribution company there and he seemed to love us. In all honesty and humility, it is really rewarding to meet people in other towns who get what we do. The distribution guy says he can help us get the next album in a lot of stores in the mid west. We are not opposed to that. We also hung out with my modslist buddy, Misa, and that was a gas.
A friend of Jamie's other sister took pity on us and let us crash on her couches. She had a really cute little dachshund puppy named "dink" that pees whenever it gets excited. I hesitate to mention what it did in Clyde's duffel bag, but the dog was very excited. I may or may not have gotten it all cranked up. On every front, Chicago is my kind of...well, you know.
Hello-ooooo Toronto! I always enjoy myself in Toronto and we have some really nice friends there. We are playing at the El Mocambo which is where Elvis Costello did his famous bootleg, where the Stones did a club gig in the late 70's ("Margaret? Margaret Trudeau?") and where Jamie says Stevie Ray Vaughan recorded a live album. There's a really good mod and britpop dance night called Blowup on Saturday nights hosted by a lunatic named Davy Love. He has kindly added us to the night's proceedings. He told us that he never has much luck with live bands during the dance night, and we were going to play before the event really kicked in, but it was pretty full by the time we got set up and all. He was somewhat right, the 19 and 20 year old kids seemed a little confused by the prospect of music coming from guys with guitars, but they were all very attentive and receptive. It went over much better than predicted, actually. We hung out with Davy and our number one Toronto pal, JJ. Also, Patrick from Sloan came down. They are one of our favorite bands and he's such a nice guy that it's always really cool to hang out with him. He gave us the skinny on all things Sloan and it sounds like those guys are working on another great album. There was some guy at our table who had won the lottery that week and insisted on buying all our drinks. Far be it from me to refuse a lottery winner, you know. JJ's a mad dancer and she always wants to have friends to dance with. I can't keep up with her, actually, but Davy was playing some really good tunes. At one point, she was trying to get me to dance and I was more into just sitting there like a slug. She said "What song would make you want to dance?" and I was just about to say "Over Under Sideways Down By The Yardbirds" when it started. I knew she wouldn't believe me, though.
We had a really pleasant last show of the tour and hung out until 4 with Patrick, his girlfriend, JJ and the lottery winner. We crashed at JJ's (she has a photo of the four of us all tucked in and ready to sleep) and she was nice enough to sleep upstairs so we Pills could spoon. Clyde lodged his usual complaints and protests about the industrial sounds of my snoring (I think he's making it up but the other guys assure me it's true). Apparently I sound like a car factory winding down. It is the sound of happy slumber.
Anyway, the next morning we get up and shower (not all together, thank you) and head off for the 10 hour drive home. JJ gives us immaculate directions and we take two lefts, a right, get on the expressway, take the first exit, take a right and 20 minutes later we are back at JJ's house. After another attempt we manage to find the border and set the controls for the heart of the sun. 2300 miles and not a single tear shed. Nor a shingle tool shed, come to think of it.
Content © 2004-2011 the