The Midwest PART 1 (Shows #1, #2, #3)
7/9/05 It is morning time. If you are a musician, you have heard this: "A tour can make or break a band". When I toured in Maple Yum-Yum this proved true. Time out on the road hurts my feelings and is partly unhealthy. It brings out the worst in people, gives you way too much idle time to think evil thoughts, forces you to consume (even though you went to the local co-op natural foods store to stock up before you left hometown) Wendy's, Toxic Hell and Sonic. On the flip side, you have to weigh that against the these facts: Time on the road allows you to truly get in the minds of the people with whom you love to play music, or more plainly, with the people you love. You will spend many hilarious times doubled over on the concrete of a BP gas station parking lot as you watch a bandmate sprint inside in effort not to shit him/herself. In fact, you will get to know the movements of each other bowels like clockwork, which is not necessarily a pro or a con, it is just worth mentioning. You will get to listen to the inane ramblings of a bandmate who just chugged a Red Bull in effort to quickly become a sentient, coherent performer after 10 hours of driving from Tennessee to Wisconsin. You will, as I am right now, get to watch your bandmate stumble from a strange couch to stand nearly naked before a strange fridge in a strange house and drink Gatorade while scratching his belly and yawning to the ceiling. He will turn to look at you on his way to a strange shower, you will return his silent acknowledgement and that is all that is necessary because you both know that you both know. These are the people who share everything in their lives with you. The only difference between them and a lover is the sex. We speak of everything. Our love, heartache, fear, depression, hopes, aspirations, goals, confusion and anger.
As I write this we are only 3 shows into our tour (more details on the shows after this rant). Last night we seriously discussed canceling the rest of the shows and going home. We played a crappy show in a rad club to a room of about 25 Appletonians who (w/ the exception of a family of 3) seemed barely interested in our music. Same thing the night before in Oshkosh, w/ a few exceptions. And the night before that we played to a really enthusiastic crowd in Nashville, but there were only about 15 people there not including the other 2 bands. After the show last night I sat outside for awhile behind the club. I felt like I would cry but instead I just claspped my hands tight over my ears so I wouldn't have to hear cars or voices and I could just be in my brain and think about why I wanted so badly to go home. Partly I was pissed because I screwed up my guitar parts on several songs. I was pissed that Will royally wrecked "Roadsigns". I guess am just fed up because for the last 3 years, maybe a handful of shows have gone by where he isn't hollering over the music that he can't hear either us or himself, yet he hasn't really made a conscious effort to explore possibilities of rectifying the situation even though we have offered multiple suggestions. Also I was pissed because the band who set up these three WI shows basically maxed out their hometown draw for the next 2 months by holding their packed house CD release the week before we got here. I am very grateful that the Wandering Sons booked these shows and like us enough to want to bring us to their hometown. We love their band. They are REALLY good (I mean really) and totally won over ATL and Athens when they toured to Georgia. I guess they just don't know about the code, which states: It is a really bad idea to play a hometown show the week before you play another hometown show if you have people relying on your draw. I guess we all keep learning and next time I know to ask. The main thing grating on my mind, though, is our financial situation. When I booked this tour, it was under the impression that Jamie was going to find us a van in our price range (a mere $6000) and we would be putting it half on credit half down in cash. Well, that didn't happen. And at 8am this Wed. morning before we left for Nashville, I was on the phone calling all the rental agencies in Athens trying to get us a better deal than the one Jamie found at Armada in Atlanta. In the end, we had to drop $1500 cash to rent a van from Armada. Holy shit. $1500. I know folks believe true artists should only think about art, and never concren themselves with money. But, when you are hundreds of miles from home and you're broke, you think of money a lot. When I got off the phone with that lady I cried for half an hour. That was money we were suposed to BUY a van with, not RENT a van. Renting sucks. Plain and simple it is throwing your money away. Anybody who has spent the majority of their adult lives, as I have, renting houses to live in, generally feels like they've been wasting their $. Also, we each took $300 from the band account to cover being away from our crappy day jobs for 2 weeks. So, I was sitting on the curb behind this club and all of these thoughts were swirling around in my head and that, coupled with the fact of me tapering off Effexor (withdrawl is a mean bitch), made for a depressing thought pattern. And I realized that 3 shows had passed, and so far we had barely made $250. Judging from how well we did in the Southeast tour I expected us to break even, but at that point I didn't know we'd have to rent a van. So, the long and short of it is I started to thinking about how we could remedy this situation and wishing that I'd listened to my friends in the heavily touring band pHBalance when they'd said "Do you seriously want to tour the Midwest?". Page walked outside and made me feel better by saying that, yes, we just blew all the money we'd saved for the last year, but the band would still be there when we got home and we'd just hold a hometown benefit show to make back the money to record an album. And we'd just bust our asses regionally to get enough $ to buy a van for the tour to Canada in late September. She said these shows reminded her of why she left the midwest 2 years ago, which was because the land and the people are cold and flat [[[Retroactive post from Page: "I feel that as a disclaimer there were/are a many people I've met in the midwest, namely during my time in chicago, and then of course the wandering sons, who were not cold or flat, and who were actually quite the opposite.. warm, hot, and ....busty? well you know what I mean. Basically my midwestern friends and sufjan stevens completely render my statements insipid. love, -pageo."]]]. Then Deb and Will walked outside and Deb suggested we find out how much $ we could get back from Armada if we just drove home now. At that point I hadn't seriously considered cancelling because I worked REALLY hard to book this tour and I do not like to break plans or leaved obligations unfulfilled. So we all talked about that for about half an hour and completely missed the Wandering Sons set which I really wanted to see. Deb said, "Claire, I tried to tell you, the Midwest ain't no place for touring." She said when she was playing with Josh Joplin they toured the Midwest once and NEVER went back even with Artemis backing their tours, they had no inclination or desire to ever play their again. Then Jamie found us and said "on the one hand, we won't know until we go" meaning that this is an adventure and the outcome is still unknown. and then said "but on the other hand you don't wanted to slit your own throat" meaning that if it is time to pull out then that is what time it is. So we decided to wake up and call Armada and go from there.
But, it is morning and I have a feeling that no one is going to call Armada and that we will just play these shows because that is what we came to do because that is what we do. More later.
7/6/05 The 5 Spot (Nashville, TN)
w/ A Poet Named Revolver and The B Students
So, I woke up at 7:30 in the morning to call all the rental van places in Athens. The deal for the last three months is that Jamie was gonna find us a van to BUY. But, no, instead we blew our down payment on renting a van. So right there I was already in a bad mood. We ended up using Armanda on Deb's recommendation. And when the receptionist van lady told me it was gonna be $1700 w/ insurance I started crying. Anyhow, we rented a 15 passenger silver GMC for only one day (which may seem weird but just keep reading), pulled out the back seats, and drove like mad forgetting the whole gain-an-hour thing from Atlanta to Nashville. SO.... This was the first day of our Midwestern tour. Obviously Nashville ain't the midwest, but we gotta start somewhere, right? We get to this club an hour early and took turns riding my new Strida folding bike around a church parking lot. This bike frickin' rules school. It folds up into nothing and just stands in the corner like a punished child. I did a lot of research trying to find a good USA made folding-bike and nobody had what I wanted, so I went with Strida, a British company who outsources to Asia, which everybody knows I ain't too keen on that, but if they don't make it in the USA, a woman has got to look elsewhere. And I did. Anyhow, we rode, we found a natural foods store and got chocolate, and then the club finally opened. So, we were all psyched at this point because this was the first show of our tour, and I walk gleefully into the 5 Spot, and the sound guy was a cold, cold man with a heart of steel. In hindsight Deb thinks he might just be socially inept. At any rate, he basically ignored me/us. So we loaded our gear on stage, and around this time the other two bands strolled in. Everything ran late, the club did not charge a cover like the were supposed to, but that is okay because there were only about TEN people there who were not performing. But, gee whiz, those ten folks and the other bands were really sweet to us. And we played a good set, although it may have sounded like ass, but we did all we could do aside from buy the club a new PA. Our friends Becky Rogers and Will Eskridge, the foxiest couple in Nashville, were representing and also put us up for the night. We thoroughly enjoyed The B Students and a Poet Named Revolver. They provided an excellent soundtrack to our first night out. So, even thoug the club didn't take a cover at the door, they still charged us for food and drinks. What the hell? Can't I be broke in peace?
7/7/05 New Moon Cafe (Osh Kosh, WI)
w/ The Wandering Sons
So, we woke up and drove TWELVE hours to Wisconin, and arrived at the venue 45 minutes before they closed. You may ask why I would schedule something like that. Well, it was not my intention. My plan got foiled by some crazy shit wherein Jamie was gonna rent the van on his insurance to save us 400 bucks, but he had just paid his insurance that very morning and their computer still showed that his coverage had lapsed so we had to rent the van from Armanda for one day on Armada's insurance. Then we had to return the van to the Armada store in Nashville the next day at 8am, have them inspect the van as if we weren't going to be driving it off the premises in 5 minutes, then re-rent the van on Jamie's insurance for 2 weeks, and drive like Nascar to Wisconsin. Sheesh. So, you see, we could not play Nashville and then drive half way, bunk at a hotel, wake up and drive the rest of the way, because we had to frickin return a van that we already frickin rented once the day before. Damn. Damn. Dammit. Deep breath. So, this was my first time seeing the vast fields of corn that would become our constant companion, and eventually the instigator of our insanity, for the duration of this trip. Corn. This tour is dedicated to corn. Corn liquor, cornpone, creamed corn, corn syrup, corn starch, cornholio, cornball, corn muffin.
If only it had been porn instead of corn. So, like I said, we pulled up to the club about 5 hours later than our sound check and several hours after our appointed showtime. The Wandering Sons were kind enough to perform in our stead and were actually on stage biding our time and stalling for us when we drove up. They raced outside and helped us load-in while they simultaneously broke down their stage set-up. Jamie used their kit, I think. The crowd seemed kind of blind-sided. Like they thought when the Sons were done they could go home, but then we showed up, and since we drove 12 hours they were duly obligated to remain seated and attentive. That set was weird. I finally got settled in on the 2nd to last song, and that settling in was difficult for two blaring reasons: the high-powered seemingly hallogen, but really just flourescent lighting, and the constant cappuccino machine. Awesome. Somebody give me a bed because I am quite certain that the human body is NOT meant to travel that far, that fast, in that short amount of time. I think that is why I always feel like assloaf after a plane ride. Or maybe it is just because everytime I am on a plane my destination is Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Hell on earth. A giant parking lot sheltered by the blazing 115 degree sunlight. You literally get tan lines w/ in, I'd say, about three minutes of walking outdoors in Ft. Lauderdale. Yet, my grandmam and uncles have completely wrinkle free skin. How do they do it? Lithuanian blood and some beers. So, Corey of teh Wandering Sons, took us back to his folks house where we'd shack up for the next 3 days. By "shack up" I mean sleep, surf the internet, and watch cable, so get your minds out of the collective gutter. His wife, Erin, made me hot chocolate and we talked about Disneyworld. Then I drove to a 24 hour Mexican restaurant at about 3am. I talked to Ernesto and his friend about my long day on the road and they sympathized and gave me a burrito with green AND red sauce.
7/8/05 Mongo's (Appleton,WI) w/
The Wandering Sons
So, we woke up after sleeping WAY too long at Corey's Mom's house. We all broke off into pairs and found nice places to eat in downtown Appleton. In a word, Appleton is CLEAN. No trash, no bums, no hippies, no punks, no drugs (that we know of). You might say, what is left to live for after the streets are clean and safe? Well, folks, there is food. Page and I walked to the post office so I could send secret special things to my man, Noel. At 5pm we drove to the venue which is, no lie, a mongolian restaurant. It is wild. You give them a bunch of money (well, we didn't, but you would) and then you just fill bowls up with raw veggies and meat and take it to this giant, round, smooth grill surrounded by a cage of glass. There are two men inside the cage with long sticks and they move your food all over the grill til it is cooked and give it back to you on a pewter platter, and you just keep repeating that process until you are satisfied. So, dinner took awhile. Then we rolled ourselves upstairs to the club. This place, despite sitting atop a restaurant, was actually really rad. We had been warned that the owner and soundman was very pelculiar and particular, but he was a sweetheart to us. Unfortunately everything sounded like ass. I screwed up my slide parts on Chainsaw, which we played first. So, we were off to a bad start. Then Will screwed up Roadsigns. And the very tiny crowd seemed apathetic. Although it turns out that there were several folks in the audience who dug it, I just couldn't tell at the time. I am writing these show entries several days after the end of the tour, but the long giant rambling blurb at the beginning of this entry was written after we got home from this show. So, I guess if you read that you know the downward spiral that happened after we got off stage. Jamie was the only one who saw the Wandering Sons set that night and he stated for the record that it was awesome and that Corey was singing with a much greater depth of emotion and that it was all very moving and radicalized.