Tuesday, March 21, 2006

TEXAS BURN--The Nein takes Middle America by light drizzle

--we’ll illustrate the scene with a few bullet points regarding Columbus, OH, on March 10, 2006:

1. “Happy Hour” at Bernie’s Bagels features $1 Rum & Cokes and a lot of clinical depression waiting at the bottom of the large plastic cups that the PBR comes in. And a lot of broken glass, screaming, and dancing along to “Dreamweaver”.

2. A dog was among the patrons at Bernie’s; it was drinking beer out of a plastic dish, and when its owner, a very drunk, very scary, very large lady, spilled her own beer, the dog was there to help clean up. With its tongue.

3. The electric meters attached to the building across the street from Bernie’s are apparently the best place to urinate in town, as evidence by the very large man who peed over there at least 5 times in the course of the evening (and the group of 5 people who were spotted there at 2am doing the same thing). This same man also told us he’d watch our van for us, because he’d been in a band before, too. They were called “The Bitches Hippies”. He told us this twice.

4. There was a fire down the street from Bernie’s, so channel 10 news showed up to cover the action. As they set up across the other street from Bernie’s, several drunk, emboldened patriots began screaming, “FUCK THE CORPORATE MEDIA!” over and over, finally crossing the street and surrounding the anchorwoman and her cameraman while screaming the “Star Spangled Banner” at the top of their lungs. The media retreated in their SUV’s, but not before the anarchists pounded on the hoods of the vehicles.

5. By 9pm, enough drinking had been done by this one blond chick that she fell on a bench by our van.

6. A man named Don attended the show and made each band play a song that he sang. The first band was forced to do “Louie, Louie”, which were all the words that Don actually sang. The second band did “Batman”, which again, was the only word sung in the song. The Nein was also forced to do “Batman”, but our version was superior. Don hugged me after the show when I told him how to get more shows at Bernie’s. “I like this guy”, he said about me to no one in particular through the lack of teeth that was his mouth.

7. A thong was sighted. On a girl whose boyfriend, or at least the male person accompanying her, expressed his affection by walking up and licking her face violently. She returned the action.

8. Our host lived with his parents. We were told we had to be really quiet until 7am. As if we were going to set the alarm for 7 and get up and holler. We also had to leave $2 for each beer we drank out of the fridge, because his father buys really expensive beer. And since our host was broke, we had to buy him his own father’s beer. And pack his bowl.

Basically, The Nein experienced Sodom and Gomorrah in Ohio.

--Chicago, IL. The windy city. It is surprisingly warm when we pull in. Our show is in the northern part of the city, at a place called No Exit, which is like a small coffeeshop with large ceilings and a huge glass (insert “put ‘em on the..” jokes here) window behind the stage. It provides some pretty amazingly dubbed-out drum sounds. The first band we play with, Fourth Rotor, is really good Chicago-style punk; nasty Shellac basslines, Bonham-style drums, and gruff vocals. They’re extremely friendly people as well. Also the only band I’ve ever met who is going to tour Alaska. The band that plays after us, Storybook Funeral, can only be described as Spin Doctors meets Alice in Chains fronted by Mike Patton. Their drummer strips naked before he changes into his drum shorts. There’s nothing wrong with that, but when he does it IN FRONT of the entire room, one wonders why he thinks that a saggy white ass is something anyone wants to see at a rock show.

--Stuck in Chicago with no shows. A welcome rest, actually, seeing as how the next 10 days will be taxing on the liver and sleep schedule. We explore parts of the city on our own but ultimately end up spending a lot of time in front of the TV at the apartment we are staying at (an apartment whose residents are out of town, leaving us with our own personal hideout for 3 nights; all we have to do is feed the cat, whose name is Whiskey). TiVO is so hard to walk away from, especially when Episode 1 of the new season of the Sopranos is on.

--Des Moines, IA. The state that gave us Slipknot has little love for The Nein. We eat at a Chinese restaurant across the street from the club; Robert is let down by his menu selections, which include egg drop soup with the consistency of snot and some chicken that “tastes like ketchup”. At the club, we meet someone who claims to have been the drummer for Zen Frisbee. I can’t remember his name at the moment; trying to remember names on the road is a futile exercise. But he seemed to know people we know, so who knows?
The opening band, a local group, is basically a guy whose aspirations to become Conor Oberst have permeated every aspect of his being. He has two people playing with him, but this is obviously HIS gig, as he refers to his bandmates as “these guys” who “don’t even know what they’re playing”. His songs cover all the appropriate Bright Eyes related genres (acoustic folk with reverse sampled drumbeats, strummy country numbers with lots of tambourine shaking and “woo!”s, etc).
But the big story here is Myspace. The other touring band has their laptop out and was on Myspace. The door girl has her laptop out and is on Myspace. The two people who have paid get on their laptops as soon as we get back to their house after the show and they get on Myspace—separately. And they start interacting with each other online. One of them has a shirt that says, no shit, “YOU LOOKED BETTER ON MYSPACE.COM”. His wife apparently left him for someone she met on Myspace. I’m not making this up.

--Omaha, NE. We get into town early to get the van worked on, and then we hit the multiplex theater to see “16 Blocks”, with Bruce Willis and Mos Def. It’s OK. After the movie we find a music store to buy some strings, and Robert spends about 30 minutes in the special room with all the amps and pedals, tweaking the various parameters of the bass synthesizer. The rest of us wait in the van; when he emerges finally from the store, he tells us that he could have introduced us to our minds.
At the club, the first person I meet asks me if I want to get stoned in the back room. I accept, and so does the bartender. We play with a really nice guy named Kyle, who does a set of droney guitar noise, and a two-piece metal band whose drummer has no bass drum, just a midi kick pedal that runs into an 8x10 bass amp. Our set is kind of chaos; we play everything too fast. The promoter gets drunk and spills a pint of beer (my beer, actually) on me and my amp. We stay with Kyle and his fiancée, who buy us 2 bags of soft tacos from Taco Bell before we get there. Very nice people.

--Oklahoma City, OK. What a fucking flat-ass drive. There are some crazy wildfires in Texas, so there are signs on the highway that say “CAUTION; EXTREME FIRE DANGER”. It takes us about 8 hours to get there. The opening band, Hypatia Lake, is from Seattle and is really cool. The middle band is horrendous pop-punk. They have a group of totally hot chixxx standing in front of the stage who scream during every song, and then they all leave before we play. It seems that The Nein is not very appealing to the laydeez.

--Austin, TX. We drive after the OKC show and get to Austin at 7am, dropping Dale off at a hotel where he is meeting Amy Jo. He’s participating in Flatstock, so we won’t see him until our SXSW show the next night. We get to our hosts’ house and fall asleep on the floor for several hours, then head into town at noon to check out the scene. Which is massive. This year, there are more bands than ever at SXSW, and there are at least 30 parties a day in addition to the shows at night. Everyone in town starts drinking around noon, so we follow suit. We go to the Vice Magazine party and see Kid 606, Cadence Weapon, and then Josh finds out that Roky Erikson is playing on the other stage (there are 3 stages at this party). He bounds over there just as I find out that Madvillian is playing an invite only party a few blocks away. I run down there, determined to get in, even if I have to give someone some weed. Once I’m in line, a doorman walks out and tells everyone that if they haven’t RSVP’ed, they’re not getting in. Things don’t look good for me, but a guy in front of me has an extra guest spot so he gets me in. I give him some weed.
The next 5 hours are amazing; one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. Then the fun starts when I meet Josh and our friend Amanda across the river and proceed to get really fucking drunk. When the bar closes we all pile into a car with 6 other people; I end up riding in the trunk, which is a little scary, but I’m so trashed at this point that it doesn’t matter. Instead of going back to Amanda’s hotel, where Josh and I are going to crash since we’re too far away from the house we’re staying at, someone in the party we’re with decides it’s time to eat at an all night diner…..with the 100 other drunk people who have decided the same thing. Josh and I decide to wait outside while the rest of our crew eat. We finish a bottle of whiskey and start arguing about Johannes Brahms (this argument has become a theme of sorts between us). Josh doesn’t like him. I do.
We wake up on the floor of Amanda’s hotel room and I realized that I haven’t eaten in 24 hours, unless you count beer.

--Austin again. Somehow I have the energy to hit some more parties at noon and start drinking again. We see this awesome British band called Art Brut at some hair salon and then go a few blocks down the street to see Big Bear, our friends from Boston who were supposed to come on tour with us. They are the heaviest band around, and Josh and I fall in love with their singer, who is the toughest girl I’ve ever met.
Then it comes time for the cattle-herding mentality of our SXSW showcase. Load-in requires going up a flight of huge stairs. At this point, my legs are completely wiped out from standing and walking so much in the past 24 hours, but there’s not much to be done about that. By 8:45, we’re getting ready for our set, which starts at 9. But then Dale comes up to me and says, “Where is my sampler?” Since he wasn’t there at load-in, he didn’t remind us to bring it in, and it’s easy to forget since it’s tucked under the van seat. The only option is to run 6 blocks back to the van to get it, which I do. As soon as I return, the place is much more crowded and the club staff are telling us we are running late. I’ve got a cramp in my stomach, I’m out of breath, my legs are killing me, and the only thing we have to drink is Miller Lite (“the official beer of SXSW”). The soundman has to replace a cable, so they give us a few more minutes to go on. By the second song, it becomes apparent that the stage is pretty rickety, as one keyboard falls twice in the same song and then the mic stand falls into the crowd—twice.
After the show I’m ready to go to sleep, but I get a phone call from our friend Alex, who has taken Josh to some secret party. He has an extra wristband, but he won’t tell me who is playing the party—I have to decide whether or not I want to come. He tells me I will not regret it, so I walk down to this parking garage where a long line of people are waiting to get in. Alex meets me outside, hands me a wristband that will grant me access to the party, and tells me I’m about to see Gang of Four. It’s a party for the magazine URB, and it’s also an open tequila bar. Needless to say, I’m trashed in 30 minutes as one gorgeous bartender/waitress after another circles the party with trays of shots and margaritas. Gang of Four is decent, but they apparently are sponsored by Peavey now, so their tone sucks. (It should be noted that The Nein uses Peavey, but our amps are older, not this crappy nu-metal style of amp used by Dave Allen and Andy Gill).
After the show, Alex manages to get us into the dressing room, where Josh and I hobnob with Dave Allen, who gives us all their Clif Bars and Vitamin Water. We start talking to a guy who is hanging out backstage, and then discover that he is Michael Azerrad, who wrote Our Band Could Be Your Life. I fawn over him for a while until he politely excuses himself out of our drunken presence.
As if it couldn’t get any more surreal, we pile into a van with everyone that has been in the dressing room, including Dave Allen and Andy Gill. I have to pee very badly, but there’s not much to do about it when you’re crammed in a van with half of Gang of Four and their entourage. We end up at a ridiculous afterparty at a ridiculous boutique, and we are standing in line when Amanda shows up with the singer from the Wrens and the owner of Saddle Creek Records. In some fucked-up stroke of timing, we are ushered into the party while they are not. Once inside, we stand in another line to get to the roof of the party, and then we just talk about how drunk we are and that we are at such an event.
By 4am we discern that we need to get some sleep. Alex lets us crash in his hotel room, which is currently occupied by Cy Rawls, who lives up to his ubiquitous reputation. He leaves for his flight as soon as we get there, so Josh and I crash in his bed and wake up with blinding hangovers. Then we get in an elevator that David Byrne has just exited.
I don't think you can make this stuff up.

I'll try to post more later this week. But hopefully we'll see you all on Saturday.

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