Sunday, March 26, 2006
TEXAS BURN II--The Reburn
--Houston. A relatively uneventful day, as the past weekend has worn everyone out completely. Not a very long drive. The show is at a place called The Proletariat, and its with 3 other touring bands. One of them, who will remain nameless for their own protection, is very friendly with us until we play, at which point their distaste for our music is highly palpable. The feeling becomes mutual as they take 30 minutes to set up after we bust ass rushing offstage when we finish our set. The guitar player apparently seems to think a tuner isn’t necessary, so he spends about 10 minutes asking the keyboard player and the sax player (they have a 3-piece horn section which is actually the best part of the band) for an A. Several members of the band discard their shoes, and one of them petulantly kicks a pile of percussive trash around the stage like an autistic toddler, then spends most of his time onstage pretending to be “eccentric”. The music is purposefully difficult to swallow, even with a really good drummer and that horn section, but the band’s collective mannerisms reek of calculated weirdness disguised as primal sincerity. Man, it must be a lot of work pretending to be a fucking retard. The opening band, however, are very nice people; 3 girls from New York called First Nation who have spent the past 3 weeks on tour with Animal Collective. They are just as awkward and weird as the aforementioned band, but a little something called sincerity makes it easier to deal with.
The crowd itself displays their own aloofness as almost none of them enter the room where we are playing, preferring to stay at the bar and drink crappy Shiner Bock. Overall, a fairly mediocre night, and also the first time that we’ve had to get a hotel in the lack of people willing to donate floor space. The stuff on television at 3 in the morning is pretty ridiculous; there’s a very long infomercial about some revolutionary colon cleansing product, whose spokesman is very comfortable using the word “colon” repeatedly in a sentence.
--Denton, TX. We get up and try to cash our whopping check from SXSW, which proves a little difficult as my bank is Durham only. Dale has an account with Bank of America, however, so we stop by one of their branches and get in line while a giant screen TV shows George Bush live in Cleveland, oozing smugness and acting like a fucking celebrity instead of a president. In honor of this moment (watching GW on TV in a Bank of America in a strip mall in Texas), we go to Super Wal-Mart to get some groceries while Dale tries to get a footswitch at Radio Shack. He is unsuccessful, so we have to track down another Radio Shack further down the highway. As we exit the strip mall, a large dude in a Mustang with his hat on sideways drives into the strip mall. He looks at me and barks loudly.
On the drive to Denton, the wind is so strong that it shakes the van back and forth constantly, making for a pretty tiring drive. Fighting with wind is not a favorite of my pastimes. In Denton, we stop for directions at a convenience store and a girl who is sweeping the sidewalk tells us to remember her when we “get famous”. The show is at a place called Rubber Gloves, which is in a very industrial side of town…train tracks and smokestacks and warehouses. We are playing with two non-U.S. bands: Run Chico Run, a two-piece from Vancouver, and Dada Swing, a trio from Italy. Both bands are a lot of fun and very nice. There’s a 4th band from Houston called Bring Back the Guns that are also pretty good. No one comes to the show, though, so the bands end up just watching each other. This also means that we have to get another hotel, which fortunately does not have commercials about what gets stuck in your colon.
--San Antonio. We check out a really cool bookstore in Denton for an hour and catch up on email, then hit the road. The show is at a place called The University of the Incarnate Word, and it’s on the quad. We play in a covered tent, which seems dubious upon arrival but turns out to be fun. Run Chico Run are playing the show as well, with Muldoon, our friends from San Antonio. There’s lots of people milling about, but not a whole lot of them want to watch rock music outside. But the people who are there seem to be into it. After the show, we drive to the house of our host, where Run Chico Run are also staying. The drive seems to take forever since we have to basically drive across the city. On the way there the local college station plays 4 songs in a row by the Arctic Monkeys, who are supposed to be the new hot shit from England or something. It’s the first time I’ve heard them, and it’s pretty fucking boring stuff. They’ll put anything out if it’s British and played by 4 semi-attractive guys nowadays. At the house, our host, whose name is Decos (that might be spelled differently, not sure) makes everyone grilled cheeses. The house is cleaner than a lot of places but the couches and carpet are extensively stained with who knows what. There’s also a very disturbing series of GUESS ads featuring Paris Hilton above the main couch….disturbing in the sense that there’s simulated sex going on between her and some random fashionista dude while she stares at the camera. She’s taking the concept of “the gaze” to new heights. She’s also got no butt whatsoever. I think all of the above qualify her as a “skank”.
All night long there are random noises that wake me up: some loud-ass birds outside, the neighbors’ dogs (my favorite), and Decos’ extremely neurotic cat who spends most of her time wandering back and forth through the living room with her collar bell jingling up a storm. When we finally wake up in the morning, there’s a fit of giggling happening outside the front door, which turns out to be two girls who live in the house that we didn’t know about. And they have two rabbits running around outside. Time to go.
--Baton Rouge. So far the most painful drive we’ve had to do. It just seems to take forever. The first gas station we stop at has quite a surprise in the men’s room. Opening the door to the restroom, I’m slapped in the face with a heinous warm odor that can only mean one thing: someone took a shit OUTSIDE the bowl. In this case, it kinda looks like someone took some lumpy chocolate pudding and threw it against the wall. How the fuck do these things happen? The ladies working in the place are aware that there is “a mess” in the bathroom, but the extent of that mess is unknown to them as we leave. Robert comments that if he were in their position, he’d call the cops and get a special shit squad to come clean it up.
When we finally arrive in Baton Rouge, it’s dark. The club is the same place we played last year, but this time, LSU is back from spring break so there’s a decent crowd. However, the first band that plays, Vaeda, embodies everything that I hate about humanity. They won’t move their van to let us load in. Their bass player has a Mohawk and is named Aristotle. The drummer air-drums to the music coming through the PA. They all wear matching blazers. They sound exactly like low-budget Creed. Their singer dedicates a song to all southern girls, “because they’re so pretty”. He also spits on the ceiling three times at the climactic apex of their last song. Then they take forever to break down, and at the end of the night they try to cheat our friends Harlan, who play second, out of their cut of the money. I wish you could send infectious diseases through Myspace, because I’d get myself a page and send them all syphilis and genital warts.
We stay with John from Harlan, who are really good when they play. Robert, Josh, and I all stay up til 4 being drunk and laughing at the endless jukebox of 90s grunge classics that Robert and Josh keep churning out on an out-of-tune guitar. Finally Dale comes out and tells us that it’s 4 in the morning, which a polite way of saying, “Dudes, shut the fuck up. No one wants to hear Alice in Chains this early in the morning.”
--Hattiesburg, MS. We go to breakfast with John and his lady in Baton Rouge and then I go across the street to check my email. As I get to the other side of the street, a crusty punk with some sort of anarchist-themed-band patch sewn into his dirty ballcap and a requisite mangy dog yells at me, “Hey rockstar, you got any change you can give me?”
I stop, look at him, and go, “What did you call me?”
“Rockstar,” he says.
“Sure, no problem,” I say as I keep walking. The best way to get money from people is call them names that are only derogatory in your own mind. I’m sure he would have loved it if I called him False Ideals Guy.
Hattiesburg is a pretty cool town. The club we are playing at is called the Thirsty Hippo, and it’s a small room with lots of windows that look out at a beautiful rock garden with a fountain and fish pond. There’s an an apartment above the club that bands can stay at, and the restaurant around the corner gives us half-price meals. We go there and it’s happy hour, so there’s a ton of drunk people, but it’s a really nice restaurant, kind of like 411 West, so it makes the whole thing pretty surreal. I get the linguini with alligator—I figure I might as well try it. It’s pretty bad. Alligator doesn’t really have a taste.
Before the show, Josh and I watch the DVD that I’ve brought on tour that we’ve been waiting to watch for 2 weeks: “Crocodile 2: Death Swamp” (from the executive producer of such classics as “Mansquito”, “Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy”, “Octopus 2: River of Fear”, and “Shark Attack III: Megaladon”). Don’t worry about the plot…it’s just a thinly disguised formula designed to create rich, complex characters that get eaten by a giant digital crocodile. We stop it about an hour in so we can go hang out downstairs.
The show is great, one of the better ones that we have played. People really seem to be into it, and there’s a good crowd out. After the show people do nothing but apologize for the poor turnout, and finally I have to grab someone by the lapel and tell them to stop talking about the attendance; there’s more people at this show than there have been the past few nights, so we’re not even thinking anything negative about the show. It’s puzzling why everyone always tries to call the glass half-empty.
The band that plays after us is called Amazing Energy, and they are great. It’s very simple, old-school bar rock, but the lead guitarist pulls out all the stops, jumping on the bar, running into the crowd, dancing in circles, etc. They would make a perfect George Thorogood & the Destroyers at the Great Cover-Up.
After the show, we get to experience the colorful locals. There are two guys at the bar who just spend all their time yelling at each other and drinking more beer. They’re almost exactly like the characters in the Mr. Show skit who get in a fight at a bar and end up getting married (“til death do us part, asshole!!”). One guy tells the other guy that’s he’s going to “throw up on your dick”, and then mimes the action. There are some pretty fine quotes I manage to write down while standing in their presence:
”Man, why am I so MAD all the time?”
“Oh, The Nein…yeah, the ‘Goonies” band….” (in response to a comment by someone else who saw our show and liked it)
Then, during the “get stoned” part of the post-show experience, a guy with really long hair and big ears (who also tells us we should “listen to more Archers of Loaf”…thanks, man, point noted) tries to get me to join in his marijuana-running scheme so he can sell his dank Mississippi nugs in North Carolina. I decline to be his weed rep, but tell him the names of a few local clubs that he could go hang out by the back door of; eventually he’ll find someone who knows someone who would go in on such a scheme.
We finish the evening by attempting to finish “Crocodile 2: Death Swamp”. I fall asleep and miss the thrilling conclusion, but Josh fills me in the next morning (they set the water on fire and the croc blows up). Classic.