HFAGS Spring (de)Tour 2008 (shows 9-17)
4/26/08 ZEBULON - SHOW CANCELLED (Brooklyn, NY)
…In which the beloved family van suffers further humiliations…
On April 26th we were scheduled to be performing another Brooklyn show at Zebulon… but it got burnt in a dang fire. Plus, the way things turned out, we had to be back in DC to collect our van from the shop. Which we did. Right after playing at Pete’s in Brooklyn we headed back down the Jersey Turnpike.We arrived in DC around 6am. We got our van from the shop as soon as they opened at 8am. They took our $900 with a smile. We couldn’t get in touch with the lasses at whose house our extra gear had been stashed, probably still asleep. We saw an open-air flea market in this old parking lot so we went to check it out. I ended up buying a sweet old-ass Polaroid camera for Robby & Jillian, who are helping me rebuild the Fags website. Page bought an oil painting of a Latino man wearing aviator shades. We’ve named him Chupa-Chup Cajones. He may sit in on some shows with us.
After shopping we returned to our newly fixed van only to find that it had been SIDESWIPED! Seriously? Seriously. Really? Really. Yes, And all we could do was laugh because everything is funny when yo uhaven’t slept or eaten anything but salted cashews. I found the driver’s side mirror about half a block down the street.Totally shattered, but in a bizarre twist I was able to make it fit back in its empty socket and it cracks me up at how unsafe it is to glance over and instead of seeing one truck to your right, you see its image scattered about 25 times on different shards of mirror. We have some minor denting and scratching, too, of course.
And then we drove off, got our gear from the lasses, and proceeded to get lost in DC for 1.5 hours, before finally making it onto 81 for an 8 hour drive to Clinton, NY. Yes, that’s right, we’d just come from NY and now we were going the fuck back. At some point, somewhere, I don’t know where, the van started making this loud clanging noise. We happened to be driving by a Pep Boys and pulled in to ask for assistance. This sweet man named Jim put it up on the lift, took off the tires, checked everything out, and told us what we’d really been wanting to hear:
1) The work we paid for in DC was done very well and $900 was less than he himself would’ve charged us.
2) Nothing was obviously wrong with our vehicle that could be causing the clanging noise.
3) If by chance there was some internal problem in the rear of the vehicle, and it seized up, most likely all we would experience would be skidding tires, and not instant death.
Then he gave us our keys and said, “Don’t worry about the bill. We don’t feel right taking money off of ya’ll after you just paid so much to have your van fixed.Ya’ll be safe.” And he waved us on. And that made us feel blessed.
We drove a few more exits down and hopped around trying to find a hotel with a vacancy, but all of PA was covered in bowling enthusiasts there for some giant competition. We finally bedded down at a Comfort Inn, but not until we went swimmin’ and hot tubbin’ in Deb’s boxer briefs.
4/27/08 COLLEGE STREET CAFÉ (Clinton, NY)
…Wherein a small town lines the pockets and quiets the nervous system …
Thank goodness for this tiny town and this quaint show. After spending 3 days driving between DC and Brooklyn, we were thrilled to find ourselves in a small town with high school kids holding a community car wash and people strolling leisurely in the sunlight as we set up to play on the front porch of the Café. And also, many thanks to Eve for booking the show and bringing us a bag of home-cooked food and one of the best pies I have ever tasted. Eve, I need the recipe. That crust was perfect. I am a sucker for a good pie crust.
While Deb & Page went jogging, I rigged up a weird sound system using the Café’s 4 channel PA head, some ¼” guitar cables, a stereo to mono converter, and my Strawberry Blonde amp (recently fixed by one cute Andy Pruett of Athens, GA). It worked, but since the back of the amp was facing us everything sounded like an 8-track tape so we had to rely heavily on audience advice as to how to tweak the sound.
We played two set, pausing for fire trucks and other sirens. Then I taught this lad, Damien, how to play singing saw. He was so excited I thought he was gonna twitter and flutter right up outta his seat. He said, “This is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me.” So cute. Then we packed up and headed towards Toledo, OH.
We stopped to sleep in Erie, PA. Ate at a Bob Evans (everything was microwaved). Swam in a cold pool with 2 hyper kids. Watched some cable. Sleep.
4/28/08 MICKEY FINNS (Toledo, OH)
… At which time the protagonists are cold and humbled…
Just to make things more interesting I booked us this Monday night show in Toledo. When we arrived dark clouds were hovering over the glass city. It is an industrial ghost town. We loaded in to a nice big room with a good size stage and decent sound system…. And then NOBODY comes to the show. It is always humbling to play for a room completely devoid of patrons, save for the other bands on the bill. And that is exactly what happened. We were sandwiched between two local bands, and there was a good blurb and pic in the local paper, but none of these things could get the people out on a windy, rainy, cold Monday night.Sigh. Tracer opened. Then us. The Prayers For Rain. We all became each others’ witnesses. They even bought our merch so we left with some cash in hand, which is good.
Deb said she didn’t trust Toledo, so we got back on the highway and drove towards Ann Arbor to find a hotel. We are once again at a Comfort Inn. Around 3:30am I finally turned off the TV. Not because I was tired, but because I can only watch and process just so much info about rape in the Congo. The documentary was fascinating, which is why it didn’t get turned off sooner. Whenever there is a rape scene in a movie or in TV, I usually walk out. I get my ass up and walk right the fuck out. I can’t handle that shit. It makes me feel ill. I have so many friends who’ve been raped. So many. But this documentary was amazing. But, like I said, I needed to process what I’d seen. That is what sleep is for.
4/29/08 THE ARK (Ann Arbor, MI)
…In which the author must trust the sense over the dollar…
I just ate a huge breakfast of Scrambled Eggs, Make-Your-Own Waffles, OJ, Coffee and Chai Tea. Deb is sitting next to the open window with her feet propped up on the sill, wrapped in a yellow and red Hindi prayer shawl. Page is in the shower. We have 20 minutes until check out…
….We hung out all day in Ann Arbor. I bought several books on Birth & Midwifery, and generally roamed the streets. Deb and I got some hellacious Chinese food.Mine was edible, but Deb’s tasted like a horse stall. And believe me, I should know, since all I ever do is go around cleaning horse stalls with my tongue.
Anyhow, we got to the Ark, loaded all our gear up to the 2nd floor, waited for the soundman, etc. We soundchecked and set up our merch. Then we went to hang backstage which is very posh with hot water on boil for tea, a fruit basket with slightly dusty fresh fruit (probably from the band before us who actually had a rider). I went out to talk with the guy who was going to run our merch. Very nice, but had to be legally blind. He couldn’t see to write or read unless, literally, his eye was 2 cm from the paper. I’ve never seen anything like it… and this was the man who’d been given the job of tallying our sales and exchanging currency with our customers. I was skeptical.
We played to a really sweet audience that probably thought we were silly. The interesting and mind-boggling scheme behind this show is that we get paid to play, but the crowd gets in for free! And, they could sign up to have their electricity come from wind power, and then receive a copy of our album… for free… and we still got paid full price for the album. Huh? What genius thought of this? I’ll tell you who: GreenCurrents (which is Detroit Edison’s Michigan-based renewable energy program). Let me repeat, people saw us for free, got our CD for free, and we still got paid. Brilliant.
So after the show (and an encore!) I went out to check on the mostly-blind man in charge of our merch. He seemed to be doing okay, but I jumped in to help since the line was huge. Then Page and Deb came out because Susie (the promoter) told them to hustle and sign autographs. And they were like, Autographs? Hardly anybody ever wants our autograph… but, lo, Susie was right. All these people lined up for our signatures. We are totally rock stars in like 5 towns now!
Page and Deb went to pack up our gear, and I, along with the theatre manager, endured what was possibly the most spine-tingling, hang-wringing money count of our lives. The mostly-blind merch man took 30 minutes to meticulously check our sales. I say meticulously, but really, anytime you study a piece of paper or a piece of currency from only 2 cm away, repeatedly, for 30 minutes… well, it makes it look as though you are being very meticulous. Anyhow, he got it all sorted after pulling bills from his pockets and other hiding places. After a sigh of relief, I joined Page and Deb. The soundman (who is excellent, by the way) helped us carry our gear out to the van and told us where to get all-night Greek food. Now, let me repeat that again, the SOUNDMAN helped us carry our gear. Huh? Where are we?
As we were leaving, the merch guy found Deb and gave her another $30 that he’d found in his back pocket and figured must be ours. Okay.
We ate dolmas at midnight with my friend John Heath (an Athens, GA ex-pat). He put us up at his house and we drank large goblets of whiskey with him (I couldn’t finish all of mine because, as everyone knows, I get drunk real quicklike on account of my scrawny bod). I think I just burned my rice. Dammit!
4/30/08 THE FOUNDRY HALL (South Haven, MI)
…In which the author is reminded of her days in the open-mic circuit…
When I was in the 6th grade I had plastic surgery. My ears stuck out when I was born, and the doc asked my parents right then if he could pull them back but they said hell no. Years later, somehow, we all came to this decision that I would have my ears pulled back and spend an entire summer in a gauzy head wrap that went round my head and under my chin like the ghost of Christmas past. When I returned to school for 7th grade, people told me I looked like an elf. So, while it may seem like I have smallish ears, if they’d been left to their own design they’d surely look like satellite dishes. If I were to procreate with someone who also has this trait, would our offspring have even more magnified ears? Would they be able to hear more keenly, or less peripherally?
We awoke at John Heath’s house to bowls of hot oatmeal and tall glasses of milk… which we tried our best to drink, but we eventually had to tell John that we just ain’t milk drinkers. In a bout of insomnia, I have been known to drink a glass of warm milk with honey and chamomile. But straight milk? Nope.
John walked us downtown to buy some jackets, but damn if all the stores hadn’t already packed away the warm clothes. So, we headed to South Haven.
This evening we were the featured act at Andru Bemis’ open mic : The Bread & Jam. This is basically a talent night where you can make yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the bar. We approve. We even contributed a jar of macadamia-cashew butter.
Most of the acts were good ol’ gents with great deep voices and decent fingerpickin’ skills. We performed about 6 songs and then they passed the hat for us and folks were real generous.
And then, well, if I’d had a video camera I would’ve used it. Up next was a quartet of pre-teens playing their first show ever. Ever. They did not have amps. Instead they plugged everything direct into the PA board, creating a sound wall completely devoid of dynamics. It was so strange to hear. At the end of their first song, the drummer, a 9 year old wearing aviator shades, climbed on top of the kick drum, beat it with mallets, threw up devil horns and jumped to the floor. Woah. Despite the fact that grandma was present, they covered the Chili Peppers’ “Californication” for their 2nd song. The drummer played one thing, and the rest of the band played a completely different song… and none of them would budge or compromise. Deb hid behind a column and Andru pulled his hat over his eves and squatted on the floor. The host told them they only had time for one more, and after consulting with each other, they announced their decision to perform Stairway To Heaven. And then the lead guitarist proceeded to “rip” through the solo while the rest of the band stood silently. The end.
Oh, but wait, there was one more act. The local poet laureate had decided to sing rather than recite. She was a really sweet woman. The end.
Except that while packing up we realize that THE VAN IS LEAKING DIFFERNTIAL FLUID AGAIN!!! We drive to Andru’s house and sleep on a bunk bed in a red room full of dolls.
5/1/08 PLAINES PROJECT (Chicago, IL)
…In which the beloved family van meets her demise, and almost takes our heroes along…
That morning we woke early and traveled to a garage with Andru. They put Betty up on the rack, said she was 2 quarts low on differential fluid, her gears were turning to mush, and the right rear brake was covered in differential fluid. They filled her up and said to be careful. We were warned that there was a chance the rear would sieze and we’d come to a skidding halt. Because of the prior $900 repair, we could afford nothing else. We ate breakfast at a nice diner and headed to Chicago with Andru Bemis on the back bench.
Page was driving, and in rush hour traffic, our brakes failed, but caught at just the last millisecond. Page almost fainted at the wheel. We immediately found a Pep Boys and for the 2nd time that day had our van up on a rack. They tightened the brakes and gave her an oil change. They said that was all they could do. Again we were warned of the possibility of the rear seizing, and again we had to decline any further repair based on finances.
This evenings show was a house party at a DIY super political town house on Desplaines St. They held a veggie BBQ and all the hipsters drank 40oz in brown paper bags.
The first group, who that evening dubbed themselves the CCR2D2 were pretty sweet, Good lap-steel playing. We performed next and folks dug it. They passed the hat for us and bought a few albums. Since our next drive was 12 hours to Greensboro, we took our time in the limelight to inquire if there was any Aderol about the house. And lo, a Kirtan yoga instructor with severe ADD bequeathed unto us 3 x 20mg Aderol. Bless you, sir. As many touring bands know, a long drive can be made much safer by ingesting small, repeated doses of the following: Coffee, Red Bull, Sobe Adrenaline, Aderol, Ritalin, Cocaine. We stick to Red Bull, Sobe and Aderol. Just enough to keep you alert, but not jittery or manic. A fine line that can only be mastered by years on the road, young grasshoppers.
And on this fateful evening we’d consumed Aderol.
After playing, we quickly packed, listened to a parting tune by Andru, and rode South for the Carolinas.
Deb drove about 6 hours and stopped at a gas station just outside of Dayton, OH. She woke me up and said, “Claire, come look at this.” We walked 20 feet behind the van. Deb points to the right rear wheel and says, does that look lopsided to you?” I said, “Deb, you’re being paranoid. It looks fine.” She said, “You’re probably right.” We both turned to gaze at the Enterprise Rental Car office across form the gas station… nah.
Deb tagged Page to drive next. About 30 minutes later, as I began to snooze in the passenger seat, there was A LOUD CLANGING NOISE. I sat up in the seat and SAW A FIREY GLOWING RED ORB SAIL PAST THE VAN and out onto the dark 5 AM highway. As it crossed the road about 200 feet in front of us… I yelled, “Oh my god, that’s our tire.” This all happened very quickly and Page screamed, “THE BRAKES ARE GONE. What do I do?” She edged the van off the highway while I downshifted thru 2nd to 1st gear and we rolled to a stop. I could see FLAMES POURING from the right wheel hub and I yelled for everybody to BAIL THE HELL OUT. Page and I jumped from the front, and I heard a tiny voice say, “Somebody let me out!!!” Deb was surrounded by al our gear in the back of the van. I swung the door open and she jumped out. We all stood huddled together on the side of the highway and WATCHED OUR VAN BURN for a bit. At some point I tried to put the fire out by hitting at it with Deb’s pillow. Then Deb threw some water from a gallon jug, I followed suit, and the fire sizzled out. What was left was a completely MOLTEN PILE OF METAL, all contorted and steaming.
5/2/08 THE HIVE (Greensboro, NC)
…In which our protagonists sell an old friend for a benjamin…
We watched the sun come up, surrounded by pastureland and wildflowers. While waiting for a tow truck we searched the ditches for our wayward wheel, but it must’ve sailed into the future. We were towed back to Charlie’s 76 Garage by two old sweethearts. Their boss, Charlie, bought our van for scrap. He paid us a crisp one hundred dollar bill. We sat around all morning waiting for a Budget rental car. When it arrived it was much too small for all our gear, so the big, burly garage workers helped us cram everything into it. We had to leave behind 3 pillows (one burnt), a blue tom drum, and some plastic crates. I managed to convince Page and Deb to let me bring my middle-school cassette tape collection.
We drove walled in on all sides by gear and personal effects. We arrived in Greensboro 15 minutes before our set time. The room was packed and the air was dense with sweat. No ventilation whatsoever. We played until I realized Deb was about to pass out from lack of sleep. The crowd was really sweet and our hosts WUAG and Brittney were very kind to us. After we played and sold a bunch of merch, we packed up in the deserted parking lot. Deb had a meltdown while Page rifled thru all our food that had suffered the spillage form a large bottle of olive oil. We drove to J. Woody’s house in Asheville. She is my friend from College of Charleston days. We got there at 4am. I set my alarm for 8am, as I had to be in Doula class at 9am.
5/3/08 THE WHEREHOUSE (Winston-Salem, NC)
…In which our heroes forge ahead, despite a lack of bare necessities such as food and sleep…
I arrived at Doula class with no sleep and no food. I spent the day learning from Whappio, a midwife who has helped deliver more than 600 babies. She spoke about genetics and the basic physiology of pregnancy & birth… all with a healthy dose of metaphysics and mysticism.
Page and Deb picked me up from class.
I should’ve mentioned earlier that I ran out of Effexor on Thursday, May 1st. Effexor is an antidepressant, of which I have taken 75mg/day for almost 5 years. I have tried to come off of it twice, once I quit cold turkey and once I tapered. Both were very loopy experiences and I eventually ended up back on the drug. In one month I will begin a long-term taper with the assistance of my shrink, a naturopath, mindfulness based meditation, yoga, crazy nutritionals, and the longwinded breadth of 8 years of dealing with depression. I mention this all because on this day, I had now gone 2.5 days without the drug, and withdrawal was beginning to set in. It makes you feel drunk and I could hear my eyelids blinking and blood pumping in my ears. I have run out of Effexor many times, so withdrawal is nothing new to me and I can function through it since I know from experience that I am not dying.
We arrived in Winston-Salem very early. I changed into a dress in the industrial style bathroom and then tried to sleep in the backseat of the car. I drifted in and out of lustful dreams and waking to a marimba band performing for a dinner party in the lower courtyard.
The Baker Family opened our show and was killer. Really tight songs and good harmonies.
We performed next. About halfway through our set we covered a Spanish song (Page is fluent) and all these folks in the crowd got super excited. After our set an internal medicine doctor from the Dominican Republic pulled me aside to talk about why I want to be a doula and drunkenly told me that delivery was his least favorite part of practicing medicine because he always feared the baby would slip to the floor. Which is a very real fear that I have considered. But I know many folks who were dropped on their heads as babies and they turned out fine. Those little skulls are like malleable tectonic plates. This man was very sweet and tried to anonymously give us $100 for our van troubles, but I knew it was him. I gave him a big hug and we kissed each other on the cheek like the do down below. I wish folks kissed on the cheek here. It is so nice.
We drove back to J. Woody’s house in Asheville. And again: We got there at 4am. I set my alarm for 8am, as I had to be in Doula class at 9am.
5/4/08 BOBO GALLERY (Asheville, NC)
…In which our fearless victors perform the final show of this tour…
Around the 3rd full day of withdrawal is usually when things get REALLY weird. There are constant whooshing sounds and whenever I moved and then stopped it felt as if I had two bodies, one physical and one metaphysical and transparent that was always a second behind the physical and would rush to catch up and then crash into the physical and I could feel both at the same time. Is this making any sense? I know this is a common side effect, but I don’t know if it has a name. It is very distracting. Also, nausea sets in and the body begins to flush everything out. This is also very distracting when you are in doula class looking at your very first human placenta and feeling rather overwhelmed at the site and smell of the thing. A placenta is spongy. And you can peel at the film of the amniotic sac which is very strong, but so thin you can hold it up in front of you and see someone on the other side.
After class I caught a ride back to J’s house and took a bath in her giant Whirlpool tub which made my brain feel better. J owns a natural building shop in Asheville and her house is sweet. Lots of natural artifacts and artistic touches. Page and Deb met me at the house and we loaded everything and went to Bobo Gallery. We got there an hour before showtime. The owner, Brad, helped us load everything in and got us settled with mics and water bottles. Our long lost friend, Bill Bondo, was there with his new beau. We regailed them and our audience with tails from the road. We love playing in Asheville because they love storytime and they love to sing along to our songs. Which makes things really fun. Stuart, from The Baker Family, sat in on drums for the Aliyah and Timbaland cover.
Christa and her pals showed up with a blessings worth of goodies: 3 bottles of mead and a large tincture bottle of Christa’s world famous Love Potion. That stuff will make your tongue numb and your lover happy. Mmm mmm.
We split shortly after the last note rang out from my old guitar. The drive home was painless and I was in my very own bed at 4am. It rained a bit and the roof started leaking water into my room, but I didn’t really mind.
...In the twilight of losing ol' Betty Bang, and in the dark of our declining fortunes, we've decided to postpone our West Coast tour until late summer. We thank all of you that have offered suggestions about West Coast venues. We will be there soon!