Montreal and beyond.
Snow drive through Vermont into Canada. The most snow I’ve ever seen which is not saying much. Crunching through parking lots and eating veggie burgers from BK, finding icicle swords in the windows. Minimal sliding. Slip through the border with almost no issue and we are USA free. Quaintsville on the highway until we are in Montreal. The venue is just fine and the promoter is also named Evan which is confusing all night. Drinking beer and whiskey and eating Pho. Loading the van after the show and here come the snow plows. “French french french french.” They want us to move the van but these colors dont run. I tell them “Oui oui oui oui” and they write us a ticket that will never be paid.
A sunny day amongst all the snow still melting. Six or so hour drive and we are in Toronto. Playing on Queen St, the only street I’ve been on in this town. Colder here but much less snow. Run into two friends from home on the street who just happened to be in town. Put that in the “Tour is weird” folder. The kids go nuts and the upstairs is full of poorly made Canadian IPA. After the show we end up in a large house. Arm wrestling before bed.
Thick snow in the morning but it melts on contact. Tim Horton’s for coffee and donuts. New York Fries and Coldstone Creamery. Not so far from home apparently. Through the border - “Which one of you has the drugs?” Nice trick, but they got nothing on us and we’re back in the states. Playing in a large coffee house. I ingest a tuna melt that tastes as it should and more. The show tonight is better than our previous one here. Afterwards things get weird and Nick makes out with a punk girl on the street and also kisses the drummer of the first band, whatever his name was. We blast out of there and the van starts acting funny but we dont find it amusing. Ignore it and Nathan drives us through to the bottom of Illinois.
Wake up early to go do a Daytrotter session in Rock Island. Statues of the Blues Brothers, old buildings, industrial depression. Up the stairs and we record a few songs in a manner different than normal. Pack up and run to Chicago for the early load in. Late by hours but late is pretty subjective these days. The show starts and is over before we know what happens. One of the largest best crowds. They get rowdy and weird for Marnie. Jack or Jim takes me into fuzz world and Marnie is right there with me. Back at Nithin’s we learn things about one another and Vince pulls out some shockers. There are beers in odd places and clothes on the floor and in bags and on furniture.
Crisp and sunny and things are good until I hear about the Japan earthquake and tsunami. I feel lucky to be here and not there. Just a few months too late or it could have been us. Things are on fire and under saltwater and I’m watching The Fugitive in the back of a van with a woman and a dog. To quote my friend “Life is weird, man.” We played a show too.
Hospitality is the name of the game for this show and we eat bbq and drink beers. Lots of people seem very excited to see and meet Marnie tonight. In turn, she gets very drunk and marginally possessed. Mountain people are friendly and the show is good and we are all tired and we have to drive eight hours to a city we don’t feel like going to.
Salt Lake City -
Driving through Hoth. Black ice and warnings against cruise control. Everyone feels sick and most sleep through the drive. The show happens and thats all there is to say about that night. Pizza after and a respite in a nice house. After nineteen shows the day off is a gleaming treasure in Mormon country.
Up to New York
The show the day after an alcohol fueled night is always tough. Got into North Carolina and loaded into the club upstairs. A nice place and strangely clean. The green room has snacks as they usually do and beer begins to get consumed again despite what happened last night. I feel disconnected while we play but the crowd is good. They go nuts for Marnie. A girl in the front row cries during the last song. The guy who showed us around in Busan, South Korea happened to be in town and the surreal aspects of touring were solidified. Space and time bend and pitch in unnatural waves.
Washington D.C. -
Rambling through the ever cracked stone streets of the capitol. Derelicts shake while suits shuffle. Everything feels old and battled. The show has a good turnout but they are definitely there to see Marnie. After the show we go to Ben’s Chili Bowl which is a landmark with shit food. Cosby loves it.
Fucking freezing and sunny. Were at Drexel University to play on the radio. Lugging our filth encrusted gear through the inside of the school while the students study quietly is an apt comparison for two cosmic extremes of life. We send some songs over the airways and we pack up again to head to the First Unitarian Church where were playing the real show. An actual church and our green room is in the chapel. Drinking beers under God’s roof and the pipe organ looms. Philly gets drunk and rowdy. Microphone stops working and Im walking up and down the stand. Soundman is displeased with me but I was in the grips of it. The show is over and we drive straight to New York and Marnie’s upper east side apartment.
New York -
Wake up after finally sleeping in. Do laundry among the maids. Milling around the house. We drive to chinatown and load into the venue. Its a creeped out cement cased dungeon. Very standard for New York apparently but cold and strange to me. Tour stories get exchanged backstage to kill time. I walk to get coffee with John and his friend Taso. Hot garbage and dirty pennies. Come back and the show gets underway in the manner that shows usually do. Easily the biggest crowd so far. The sound is terrible and I get destructive. Marnie plays to her hometown and I get to drinking vodka and soda. The smoked up backstage is flush with free range conversation. After the show we walk to a karaoke bar and drinks happen and songs are sung in a mass of mic passing and card swiping. New York New Yorked us good this time.
Not sure how it was possible to get to another show. New York felt like the end of something but here we are picking up where we left off. After lunch in the city we head to Connecticut. I wake up and there is snow on the ground but its warm outside. Im fascinated with the iced dollops in the edges of the parking lots and in the yards of the wooded houses. The stage at this place is nearly shoulder high which doesnt help the vibes to flow free. The green room is downstairs and Fig gets rambunctious. Pizza, cranberry juice, Dr. Pepper, hummus, chips, pita, cheese and crackers, bottled water. The show is fine but quiet and calm which does not fit well with our bands. They cant all be massive piles of human exertion. We drive into the dark to be able to make it to a radio station in Boston the next day.
Tallahassee, Orlando, Atlanta
Hung over and more or less ruined from New Orleans. Coffee and Im driving through the swamps and marshlands. Cross through Alabama. At the general store: “yeup, i just was fittin to get a kite today” says the man in the lime green shirt also buying two double liters of Dr. Pepper.
The show is at a college and there is a large spread of pizza and salad and snacks. I’ve barely been eating anything though so a dab will do me. A dancing boy in the front makes me feel strange for the whole set. Marnie brings me a beer which helps.
After the show the fog rolls in and we find a Super 8. Time for sleep but we are so used to staying up until 6 that we average out at 5. Turning into felines/humanish beings.
Sunny and tropical suddenly. Iced coffee today from the Dunkin’ Donuts at the travel stop. Live streaming all day from inside the van to the internet for those who wanted to see how boring this usually is.
Marnie’s mom comes to the show and she is very entertaining. Her husband was Robert Redford’s stunt double. The show happens and happens correctly. We go to our friend’s house and set up shop for another 4 or 5am sleep session.
It’s hot and sticky but grey and cloudy. Tornado warnings and we drive through the hardest rain I’ve ever seen in my west coast based life. Storm clears as we get to the Drunken Unicorn. Randy our good friend who is always fun to see is DJ’ing the show. We get a long long string of drink tickets and a bucket of beer backstage. Have one of a million veggie burgers across the parking lot at the Bookhouse Restaurant. The show is good and the sound is bad. Whiskey and Marnie hang out and I help her make sense of her pedals. I smoke a cigarette because Im very drunk while she plays. We pack up and I mix vodka with beer and more whiskey. We split off and some go to a stranger’s home and some go to the Clermont Lounge. It’s in the basement of an old hotel, or at least I think so through my squinty eyes. The man says no pictures. And then iterates us “Make sure the female understands.” The strippers are thick and Marnie gets me another shot of whiskey. We have PBR. We apparently throw out some mean words loudly but to ourselves. When the oldest and fattest and bruised stripper gets up she spits in our direction but we don’t notice. She yells at us for not tipping. We should have but whirlwind was setting in. Goodbye Clermont and hello hotel. Lets get a pizza. In the morning it was untouched.
The Big Easy
New Orleans -
Arrive at the House of Blues in the French Quarter. Cool club but still sick. Hurricanes, the frozen alcohol slushee treat, are talked about and soon we all have some. Marnie and I share peach with 151 and Champagne. Sickly sweet frozen straw. Time to play and the lights seizure snap and fog creeps. I miss cues because I can’t make out John in this weird dimension. Coughing up batteries. Shows over and were loaded up. Friday night in the French Quarter and its almost Mardi Gras. Things are in motion and the motion is shaky. We walk Bourbon Street like the tourists we are and Vince buys a souvenir cup full of the frozen bad idea. Step in filth and hop through pizza crust and plastic cups and bile puddles. Drunks are the majority in this reverse world where more people are drinking outside than in. “Ill let you motorboat me for those big beads!” Cop horses get promotionally stickered by Sean. Tabasco sign get torn down. “Im wearing a boa, bitch” from the most unlikely mouth of Vince while sitting in the Barely Legal club. Nathan, Marnie and I go to Cafe Du Monde for Beignets. Nate eats and leaves in an attempt to find the men in the thick of it and Marnie and I sit and ingest the powdered sugar covered fried dough. She gets it all over my shirt that she has been wearing and we walk back. A fight in the streets in front of the St. Louis Cathedral. Face kicked and on this out of the way street, nobody stops it. We walk past it as though it was supposed to happen. Back on Bourbon, begging the bouncer to let Nate into the club to get the room keys from those entrenched men. Wallet collateral and he is in. Get the keys and we escort Marnie to her Hilton and go to our hotel. Somehow again getting to sleep at six in the morning. Everything went exactly right tonight.
Parental hospitality, beers on the street in the suburbs while skateboarding. Wheres the bbq? Wal-Mart jerking us around on the new tire but this leads to some liberated Rain-X. Drive past the reason for “Texas is the Reason.” Sons of Hermann Hall is a large old building with lots of wood. Old timey saloon feel which is only enhanced by our greeting at the door by the long white haired cowboy with the Martin, “Y’all boys fixin’ to load in?” Inside the room looks like a prom. Stars hanging from the ceiling, wooden floors, folding chairs. This place looks haunted and someone gets confirmation later that it is. We play upstairs and downstairs is the bar and soon it starts filling with more cowboy hats and acoustic guitars. Multiple rooms of this. I would be in heaven if I didn’t have a weird cold and strange stomach preventing me from joining in. Banjo storm and denim hollering’. Rounds on the house and historic vibrations permeating through both stories. Marnie’s bloody marys from the night before leave her no healthier. Quick, breathless set from her, Nithin, and Vince and were ready to go on. Hard for me to set up and Im slow to do it. The monitors are nice and loud but I sound like im playing alone and I feel self conscious but the lack of movement makes for quality playing. Nate has what we had. He tells me he felt worse while playing that show than he ever has which was how I felt in San Antonio. Despite this he sells merch and loads up like a champ. Time to drive three hours to get a jump on the long drive to New Orleans. Ron is in the drivers seat and it turns out he’s got the plague too. Champion among champions. First we “Feed the Beat” with our Taco Bell bucks given to us through the program of the same name. Cheesy Party Potatoes. A few hours later into the night I wake up and were at a Super 8. Another 6am bed time. Soon we may be something apart from human.
LA, San Diego, Scottsdale, San Antonio, Austin
Cast of Characters:
Nathan - Bass player Tera Melos
Nick - Guitar Tera Melos
John - Drums Tera Melos
Ron - Friend along for the ride taking photos
Sean - Friend along for the ride taking video
Nithin - Bass player Marnie Stern
Vince - Drums Marnie Stern
Marnie - Marnie Stern
Fig - Marnie’s half yorkie and maltese dog
Hang out at Sargent House and feel rich in the punk mansion. Play at The Echo. Good show, lots of people. First show screw ups not too terrible. Green Room full of cigarette smoke and apples and Tecates. I drink Scotch. Meet with friends who missed show. Go back to Sargent House and lots of people are drinking. Decided its a good idea to go to the beach at 2am. It was. Freezing cold but fun. Nate, Nick and Ron fully submerge. Sleep at 4 or 5am. Sun rise is harsh in the big glass room.
San Diego -
Hang out and some hungover. Pizza and internet. Raining hard. We leave the house and take the drive south. Too much rain and traffic makes for stress but new Radiohead is making for proper scene setting. Three hours later we are at the Soda Bar. The show is full enough and the stage is tiny. Somehow I end up with our drink tickets (two per person is 12 for our six people) and Marnie’s (6) and the mistake is not caught till the next day. Sometimes clubs are generous but not as generous as I was to myself with Vodka soda’s. By the end of the show there are new markings on my telecaster. The noise was pretty noisy. The rest of the night I did some things that were regrettable and I did some things that I might regret had I remembered them. I found a place for us to sleep though through my drunken helmet. Nate and Sean climbed a billboard before we left.
Wake up and feel funny. Off we go to Arizona, one of the coolest looking but depressing states. A stop off at guitar center and trader joe’s. Border patrol everywhere. We get waved through a checkpoint and Nate bids the officer an “Adios.” The show is clearly in the Jersey Shore area of Scottsdale. Confusion with promoter and muscled up security boys make for some tense times before the show. Marnie fights tooth and nail for a case of beer backstage and she gets it. There is a large barricade in the crowd separating the young from the old. The money from the interested. Turns out to be a good enough show and one of the best sounding we’ve had. They wanted us out by an absurdly early time so we cut a song and extend the repeating riff of the last song until they turn the lights out on us. Fists a pumping and riff a repeating for minutes more. We finish so the weekly metal cover band can come remove themselves from their horrible Scottsdale existence for an hour. Go to a house and I sleep in a walk in closet with dead crickets in it. The Terrarium.
Scottsdale to Ft. Stockton -
Drive day. Get a move on little doggie and we cross the desert. But first an abnormal amount of attractive women at the Safeway. Stop at “The Thing” to see what wonders it holds. A car thought to of been used by Hitler? Wooden carvings of torture scenes? The Thing turning out to be a wooden carving of a small mummy? Well worth the dollar entrance fee. Buy some fireworks on our way out and toss a smoke bomb on the roof for good measure. Drive until we hit a Taco Cabana, a favorite of some, and ravage the salsa bar like bears at the honey store. Further driving and I got a little tickle in the throat. Super 8 and we sleep like six babies in a Super 8 in the middle of hell.
San Antonio -
Roll up to the venue with time to kill. Next to a rotting cat mansion. Fig runs free. Marnie pees on the street. My tickle aint getting any better and it turns out Marnie has the same thing. We decide on Doctor Maker’s Mark. The tickle turns in a faded twinkle and Marnie turns into someone who pees in front of children in front of our van door. Get her to the stage and prepare for cacophony but she holds it together despite technical hoopla. I can’t remember ever feeling so sick while playing since the tickle had returned with his friend the fuck you fever. Make it to the end and hide in the Marnie van. Looks like Nithin has joined our club. Marnie and Nithin shiver while I overheat. Fig remains stable. Decide to go quarantine ourselves in their Marriott. Fever dreams and sweat for all. Fig pukes on the sheets. Vince somehow dodges the freight train running through our heads.
Get up and shower. See-Saw from okay to terrible. Go to IHOP and stabilize. Stock up on drugs and breathe right strips at the CVS. Dayquillin’ it in the parking lot and nap takin’ it in the van. Get to Austin and things seem okay. Check into their hotel and I enjoy the luxury for a couple more hours while we pass out on the bed in hopes of total regeneration. I cant sleep though and instead watch the end of The Mothman Prophecies starring Richard Gere. Bridge collapse in the dead of winter. We drive to the show and the overall coolness of the Mohawk makes me feel a lot better. The drugs have kicked in and the fever nearly gone. Nithin is with me on that but Marnie is either just complaining or truly feeling ill still. Nice weather and a good show to many fine kids. Dont feel sick while playing but have to cough and swallow some things in between singing. Against my advice Marnie drinks 5 bloody marys before getting on stage. The banter tonight was top notch and the young women with the x’s on their hands seem pretty excited. Lots of hanging after the show. We somehow decide to try and make it to John’s parents house in Ft. Worth tonight which is three hours away. We leave the venue at 230 and find food at 3. I fall asleep in the back while Nathan manhandles us into the black stretches of pavement hidden from the Texas Moon by the slanty eyed clouds. Awake to a lurch and a rumble. Blown tire at 545 in the morning. Not just blown but shredded by a highway demon. I wake up and go to work but there are no chicks around. We get the spare on in 20 minutes and make it back fine. New type of sickness brewing. Fever/Cold/Couch/Bananas/Hummus/Coffee/Mom/Brother/Sleep.
My “slept on” count thus far - Beds 2, Couches 2, Floors 2