I don’t care WHAT Heather says – I’m exhausted. Tonight we played the Thai Gour Cafe for the first time in months, and played the past we’ve played in a long, long time. Just, such good energy on stage – I have so much fun with my band!!!
Whee!Anywho – we’re playing Takoma Park tomorrow morning, which means we’ve got to be out of the house by 9am…. which means waking up five hours earlier than we did today. And the gig was long and fierce – and I’m going to take a shower before bed… and collapse. In the words of C-3PO – “Oooh this oil bath is going to feel SOO good.” Except… not oil. And not a bath, really. Hrm.
Oh my God – it’s 8am. Heather’s not happy. Rowan’s not happy. I’m not happy. This is the day we really need someone driving the tourbus or something, so I can sleep in the car. My stomach is reeling from the hour, feeling a little like I’m in a rapidly decending elevator – getting worse as my body realizes I’m not ABOUT to abandon it back to unconsciousness. Oh, it’s ALL bad news.
The Takoma Park Street Festival was a lot of fun – I’m beginning to grow a little more confident in big crowd situations, where I see that people are coming from the periphery to see what the commotion is about. The double djembe thing that Rowan and Heather do is far more effective at getting attention than maybe even Heather going topless.
Anywho – great gig, gonna be on tv. Gonna get the DVD. Gonna be a big star… off to the next gig.
It’s such a beautiful day – it’s a shame about the greyness of yesterday, the New Deal Cafe Autumn Harvest Festival got greyed out – rather stupidly I felt. I don’t think Richard (McMullin) even did it voluntarily: apparently a lot the day’s artists had called him worried about the weather and cancelled on him. Pansies.
Such amazing light – the intensity of oranges and reds bright enough for even ME to see. The birds have been criss-crossing the sky with crazed migrations, and we’ve seen butterflies flitting and my parents caught a skink. I’m exhausted, ready for the drive and finally the couch collapse. A little rob oozing into the couch crevices. Yes – complete and flaccid relaxation. If I was saying this on stage, it would be about now that Heather would be telling me to stop talking. Sigh.
The Takoma Park show was excellent – it made us feel like a big band, dragging heads around, and amazing the soundman, as well as the local television crews. Unfortunately, exhaustion was somewhat setting in by the time we got to the crab feast. My finger tips feel like hamburger, and my voice is coarse and tired. We’ve never played this much in one weekend. Especially the Thai Gour show – three hour gigs can be killers. — Damn – Heather’s so hot. I don’t want to go on about this – but she’s singing along with the radio – and when she vamps it up … oh God. Laptop… hurts…
What I was SAYING, however – was that I’m really tired. And now in need of a cold shower. Sheesh. Any other train of thought – completely gone.
Sleep interrupted by strange and horrible dreams. Heather kept beating me at Parcheesi, and acard game based on Instant Messenger windows. Something about a gig, too, perhaps. But my brain’s too addled to pick it apart from reality.
I’ve also got THIS picture – the Kentucky Cave Cricket is what U-Haul declares the beast to be, and I used to think that this, admittably rather blurry, photograph signified proof of wide acceptance of their existance, but… but as with all photographs of cryptids, the picture is rather blurry, and I can’t find corroborating information on U-Haul’s website. All the other “Venture to America” graphics are represented, but not this one… I smell… conspiracy… especially because of the OTHER images that U-Haul IS willing to place on their trucks and on their website. Below, you’ll find images of U-Hauls advertising the existance of the alien landing at Roswell, New Mexico, and Champ from Lake Champlain in Vermont. Sigh. My proof slips through my fingers. I am Mulderized… I am rob’s sinking feeling of government conspiracy.
So, this is weird and slightly out of order, but neccessary to provide some sort of continuity – or continuous discontinuity, or something – the timeline of the photographs and their captions don’t ALWAYS mesh with the timeline of the dated text, but I figure that’s ok – right?
Anywho, the pictures of the beastial lobster crickets from page 481 (yes…. the futurrrre!!) [deal with it, some stuff like this has gone to Hell while transferring the Journal to wordpress!!!] have created interesting response – and I’m feeling better about the fact that OTHER PEOPLE HAVE SEEN THEM TOO!!
Brennan says in our forums:
“The “lobster crickets” that recently showed in the journal took up residence in my basement sometime in highschool. Each family member had a very surprised encounter with them, and they were termed Fubububas, a verbalization of the abbreviation “F.B.B.B.”*
which was the first time I could remember my parents making a bad word part of our personal family dictionary, even by reference.
They aren’t real crickets, so I feel no obligation to “let them go” per Cricket Hunt. They shall be hunted with large heavy books where ever I find them.
*(Fucking Big Bouncing Bugs)”
Then, in an IM conversation with my old roommate from college, Chris (who now resides in Georgia) – more is revealed:
Chris: you call them lobster crickets. in the south, they call them camel crickets. i loathe them almost as much as spiders…supposedly they bite too. rob: GAH! I really really hope that that’s not true. Chris: i haven’t been bitten…but why do they always hang out in the bathroom. right by the toilet rob: they’re waiting for dangly bits. Chris: that’s what makes me so nervous. rob: … sigh – the idea of the … the bite… and then perhaps the burrowing… and then… the testicular nesting. – s h u d d e r rob: what a great word though – testicular nesting. Chris: i watched a show the other day about Bot flies…talk about creepy nesty, egg laying…bah. – testicular nesting…just the thought makes me itch. – but then for some reason i can’t get the image of bird nest’s made from testicals out of my mind. rob: ah – that would be the artschool… it itches too.
How I wish I could console myself with the idea that they were mere imagined phantasms, but alas, since we’ve been talking about them in the Journal, they’ve even arrived here at the Lloydholme. We found one in the garage, probably waiting to do some testicular nesting. I bet the test for that’s awful, but not nearly so bad as the cure.
Was it just last night? We played Steve Key’s birthday party – 47 singer/songwriters for 47 years.A billion chocolate cupcakes and a fantastic giant German chocolate hoho. More a bouche de noel with a bit of coconut icing on top. And candy, and stuff.
Oh yeah – and some music.
Forty-seven singer/songwriters all in one place amounts to a whole lot of music, and at one song each, it means that even if you don’t like what’s on the stage at the moment, if you wait for five minutes, something else takes its place. But I was rarely truly wishing for change. Steve was truly showing off his friends – some amazing players, amazing voices.
But the highlight of the night was Steve’s performance… he had put together a little pick-up band for the evening – percussion, bass (I don’t remember their names, because I’m THAT forgetful, but the bass player was playing a gorgeous custom-built six-string and used to play for Ray Charles and the Temptations). And on lead instrument (mandolin and guitar), the beautiful and horrifically unattainable Avril Smith.
They only played four songs, but – there’s something so pure about his music. It’s hard to explain, and I think a lot of people don’t really understand why his music in particular effects me the way it does. He writes good, solid, American folk. He writes political music without being overbearing, and Love songs without being sacharine.
He writes incredibly personal music that strikes me to the core. There’s a lot of really good, solid music out there, especially in our circles. I mean, Hell, how often am I struck with shock at how GOOD the musicians are in our circle of friends? But Steve Key really shakes me – some of the writers that we cross paths – they are too clever almost… I’m distracted by the craft – which is a difficult concept to explain to people who don’t get it.
Sometimes a fascination with the brush strokes can interrupt the appreciation of a painting – when the painter is more in Love with the craft than with the overall piece. I don’t think it’s even something that most people would notice, but it’s the driving force of my hatred for a LOT of folk music right now… a lot of art in general, actually – performing and visual. There’s too much of the artist sitting back and sort of pointing something out to you – pointing and saying “see, wasn’t that clever? I am a Good Songwriter”. Steve’s work never has that pretention. They’re just Good Songs.
Oh my God – we’re in Greenville, NC, and cigarettes are cheaper than gas. We’re driving, and we’re passing pumpkin patches. Last night we player the … let me get this right… North Carolina Women’s JamFest and met Someone’s Sister. You know – just Someone’s Sister? Everyone’s sister.
We ended up crashing with Chris and Georgia and Kat, talking long into the night as we all slowly became less coherent over gig afterglow and gyros. I’m in Love with Kat’s humour, and with Chris for her shining friendliness, and with Georgia’s fervour for… for what? There are self-affirmations scattered throughout the house – a sense of someone who’s really conflicted in Life, in a lot of ways, and is well on the way to finding a solution to Life that works for her.
Now, normally – a person that seems on their way to sorting out their place in the universe sort of exudes a level of Zen calm that, frankly, kind of bores me. Georgia, on the other hand, has perhaps not so much found her PLACE in the universe, I suppose, as she’s found her mission. And she persues that with all the zeal and fervour that most people reserve for … I don’t know, what do most people have zeal for? Getting their morning coffee, possibly. She had fallen into a Life that she didn’t like, and she forcibly redirected it. Sort of like me, except she kept money and a house in her Life.
As if to reinforce this – well, as usual, I’m afraid that this entry is shortly going to turn to talk of the bathroom: I don’t have any idea what time it might have been, just as the sun was rising in Greenville, NC on October 10th, I was hanging out in the bathroom,reading the numerous bits of sage advice taped up on the bathroom wall. There was a beautiful moment of peace as I was reading about listening to birds sing “the whole song” and the first morning bird woke up and provided me with the chance to do just that.
Anywho, driving driving, passing through Goldsboro, North Carolina, encountering cotton for the first time… (hehe – the Airforce Base we’re coming up on is “Seymour Johnson”… hehe … get it?… sigh) it’s beautiful out – I’d kiss Heather out of sheer exuberance and Love of Life, but she’s just popped bubble gum all over her face. Good thing it’s a STRAIGHT road.
So, this isn’t an answer to a question – to my question, to any problem. But I read the news, and then I read BEYOND the front page, and wonder why the FUCK certain headlines aren’t… well, more headliney? Today I read this article – which I’ve saved to our website for the moment, as articles like this never seem to stick around for very long. My understanding is that a portion of the recent report on WoMDEs seems to me to be a huge deal, and for some reason, hasn’t really been emphasized.
So, we all know that the recent CIA report stated unequivocally that Saddam’s WMD programs were halted back in 1991, and that he was in no position to restart them, or even think about restarting them, as of our invasion last year (and by “our”, I certainly mean “his” – though more on THAT thought later). It states that no weapons were found, were there, could have been there, or could be there anytime soon.
The part that really bothers me, however is the “section of the 960-page report [that] says the risk of a ‘devastating’ attack with unconventional weapons has grown since the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq last year.” And that all of these insurgent groups that have popped up since our invasion are who is spearheading this effort. Unaligned with Hussein, and for that matter, entirely non-existant until Saddam was deposed, THESE groups are the ones that are getting dangerously close. Closer in the past seven months than Saddam had come over the past 13 years.
And why is that buried? Why isn’t that front-page news? Why wasn’t THAT mentioned in the debates? It only comes out as a under-the-radar news story a couple of days later? And how do I make it change. Can one ask all you friends to click that little “email this story” button, so it moves up on the “most emailed stories” list, drawing attention to it? That probably doesn’t even matter. The least I can do is write about it in my own little forum here… what else do I do? Heather doesn’t want to Live in this America – it’s frightening. I don’t touch politics much here, but – we’ve all got to move to Florida and register to vote THERE very, very quickly.
Oh – and about who’s war this is – certainly it is also owned by everyone who is not going to vote for Kerry on November 2nd. I’m appalled that Nader is taking up his 2% in this time of crisis, and I’ve heard he’s on the ballot mostly through Republican donations (though don’t quote me on that since I don’t remember where I read it – and that’s why I’m SAVING news articles now) This war is owned by everyone who… who doesn’t get it. It seems that every news source in the world is denouncing every reason Bush gave America for entering this war, and yet the polls are still neck and neck. My only explanation for that is that most people don’t pay attention to most any news source in the world. They listen to whatever financial institution they buy into, whether it’s the NRA or the “Gay Rights Agenda”. When did special interests groups become our news and information portals? “Portal” is an internet-age term for a one stop information access point – and the internet gives us access to all the information we could possibly want, all the portals we want – it’s potentially, through a bit of filtering and intelligent weighing of information – a portal to probably truth.
I know there are so many people that are still “unplugged” – are they the source of this tie? Or are people really that lazy that they can’t see past abortion and the fear of a man holding hands with another man that they aren’t horrified by the entire American military machine being brought to bear at the random whim of a Christian conservative Allahphobe?
We’re back to Deanne’s in Wilmington – and as dinner coalesces (real lemon meringue!) she tells us stories from her day job, which involves the rehabilatation of people who are in danger of slipping through humanity’s cracks. Recently, that’s included some returning soldiers, fresh from the fields of Iraq.
Even if I didn’t fully disagree with the reasons for going to war, I could agree that taking Saddam out of power was a good thing – that though it was poorly planned, and the struggle that we’re facing now could have been avoided, that eliminating Hussein’s government… I could be convinced that that’s a good deed. But seeing how some of the soldiers are treated upon their return, who they are rewarded – Deanne’s working with a man who has just returned from three tours of duty. He narrowly avoided being burned alive with the rest of his (squad? group?) friends in a Humvee targeted by a hand grenade. Though he was thrown clear, he got back in time to see the rest die…. here he is back in America, having seen and done horrible things – and he can’t pay the taxes on his car, and can’t pay off a speeding ticket that he recieved, because of the penalites assigned for missing the court date…. the court date which he missed because he was deployed over in Iraq.
I’m done. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Wild grasshopper Love on the verdant fields of Nashville, North Carolina.
Last night Deanne took us out to an open mic she’d been frequenting (she’s really been picking up guitar – singing and playing since we last saw her) at the Reel Cafe. Now, we can hear this place from the end of the block – open air, loud bar. Straining through the Wilmington air, a familiar yet strangely changed tune – our friends who were running Katy’s open mic last time we were in town head up a band called L Shaped Lot, and we finally get to encounter the L Shaped Lot itself: a four + piece act (not quite sure, I think some of the members were just pick-up) doing a bizarrely beautiful countrified version of that “We Don’t Need No Education” tune from Pink Floyd’s the Wall. It was awesome – held down with an excitingly bouncy bass line and rounded out by some tripped out pedal steel guitar running through a huge pedal board. Unfortunately, I didn’t hold such high hopes for the actual open mic.
I worry that we have a habit of sizing places up far too quickly. I comfort myself with the fact that whenever we’re thinking “oh God, we’re not going to get ANYONE’s attention” we almost invariably surprise ourselves.
The audience began turning around with Deanne’s set, responding pretty well – but I wasn’t at ALL prepared for their response to us. This was arguably louder than any of our home crowds. Perhaps helped by a higher alcohol content, but in all honesty, we worked hard for the recognition. I think that with all the technical difficulties at the festival the night before, and then the excitement of seeing Deanne again really inspired us. For the first time since being merely a bass player, I actually managed to get myself off the ground, and airborne, only hit a couple of wrong notes here and there. I like to leap.
I was probably still inspired by the toad pee. Either that or the shockingly attractive collection of people sitting and standing (and then dancing) at the table to my right. Not that I would compare the two in any other way.
“And here are the MOUNTAIN GOATS!!”
“Looks like only one goat though…”
That was my introduction to the music of John Darnielle almost ten years ago – on a mix cassette made for me by Will Schaff the first sentance being the MC’s announcement, and the second the offhand comment by Will into the tape recorder he was using to bootleg the concert.
And then follows “Black mollies in the aquarium, swimming back and forth like an earthquake was certain, and I turned up the heater, and I ripped off my shirt”… John Darnielle is one of the most amazing lyricists I’ve ever encountered, drawing from experiences far too wide to ever come from just one Life, or so I’d like to think.
At one point, in college, Will mentioned that the Mountain Goats were playing at the Ottobar, and we all went down to see John in person. At the time, the Ottobar was miniscule, and was focused on indie rock and other eclectic music – a tiny hole-in-the-wall bar with an artsy aura. The Mountain Goats once again consisted of a single performer, and my memory of John Darnielle was of a shaven headed man, a little older than me, screaming his heart out into the microphone, almost silent between songs, and completely unrivalled in his intensity – pulsing skull veins and pumping muscles – a vague memory of volume and emotion.
So the beginning of last night’s Wilmington Mountain Goats show was spent trying to figure out which person was The Mountain Goat(s). We got there early enough to sit through complex and casual sound checks – the opening act, John Vanderslice, was a four-piece band with singer/songwriter, drummer/xylophonist, electric guitar/keyboardist, and a bass player.
We eventually identified the Mountain Goats as a tall scrawny bass player and the periwinkle shirted narrow-eyed guy playing that dumb bar video game in the corner. Yep, John Darnielle was relaxing, hanging out and apparently flirting with the merch girl. This was an entirely new side to a guy who writes such lines as “And you smile as you ease the gun from my hand” and “the daisies bloom like cancer” and lyrics about subjects as varied as human sacrifice, murder, Love, passion, and estranged children.
I really WANTED to warm to the opening act. John Vanderslice used a lot of reverb and a lot of tremolo effects. He had an insane keyboardist and a vibrophone and a REALLY good drummer full of dangerous tom noises and fierce thunder. He had a good song. Maybe. A good lyric, maybe. But a couple more lyrics that sounded as if they were really TRYING to be deep, but… failing. (“Sometimes a cowboy is just a man in a cowboy hat”). But mostly, he left me kind of cold. Most of his music continued in a solid unbroken not-quite-slow rhythm as if everything had been written to match the same trem effect setting. Really, really good musicians though – they somehow put me in mind of a lounge-ier alternative to Rush. Yeah – TRY imagining that.
And then come the Mountain Goats. Up to this point, John Darnielle’s contribution to the show had been to shake his fist from behind the stacks on the side of the stage in time to some of the more emotive beats in Vanderslice’s music. He takes the stage with a dozen songs I’d never heard before, all of which proved to me that this guy is one of the best writers that’s ever Lived. And one of the best performers, too.
After the opening tune, he stops to explain that once upon a time he was VERY uptight about setlists – that setlists were laid out weeks ahead of time, and the musician that deviated from the setlist earned his wrath. Tonight was the first time he was operating ENTIRELY sans setlist – and pretty much the whole night was made up of audience requested tunes.
Heather even requested one, but she didn’t know the title, so she wrote a bunch of lyrics down and made John a lengthy note – with a smiley face on it – “Oh, she wants ‘Poltergeist’. Do we do ‘Poltergeist’? I think we tried it once in San Francisco. It’s got like, this C# in it.” At this point the keyboardist from Vanderslice had snuck up on stage, and though the bass player caught on quick, he spent a lot of time angling his bass over so the other guy could see the notes he was playing.
A good night. Very freeform. John moved from guitar to drums and back again, insisted that the bass player play a song of his OWN devising (he barely remembered it, but it was awesome nonetheless) and by the end of the night, invited the whole of the Vanderslicers up on stage for a very scary song about a man stabbing his wife who’s using a saw to saw off her jaw while they’re planning to give us cancer in our hands. Creepy song – the Vanderslicers, when finally freed from the musical vision that was John Vanderslice, went crazy in a ferocious, almost punk recreation of Mountain Goat insanity.
Incredible night. Too much to recount. We just got back from playing Port City Java – another great day. Maybe I’ll put Heather in charge of telling you about that.
Whenever we were looking for gigs in Wilmington, people kept saying “you know, the Soapbox doesn’t pay that much, but, you’d do really well there.” Well, I try not to ever go into financial specifics in our Journal, but I think they paid us just fine, and we DID do pretty well there. Despite a “slow night in Wilmington”, we had a pretty good crowd, and we proceeded to rock the bubbles out of the scarecrow (that’s a common Southern aphorism, donchaknow? – ahem – don’t y’all know?).
Our audience consisted of two vast and vastly different contingents. There were the North Carolina lesbians and Rowan’s family. Both are enthusiastic, hugely appreciative of us and one another, and both are really, really loud. Between Deanne’s wild whooping, Georgia’s screaming (was she screaming to get Heather out of her clothes? perhaps…) and Joanne’s… enthusiasm, it was a good thing we were playing through a decent system. The energy was immense.
Having Rowan and Sharif join us on the road brought me up so high – the ferocity of the bones, the liquid emotion of Sharif’s keyboard – I Love my band. The night before, at Port City Java, we were forced to be SO reserved in order not to blow the place out, all the pent up aggression and tension and FORCE just came roaring out of us. Amplified by a fantastic audience, we poured ourselves into the Soap Box and … and… we win!
There were a couple of high-profile local names, other musicians, producers and club owners in the audience. We won rave reviews from them. We had a bunch of passer-bys that paid the cover so they could see what was going on, and stuck with us till well past midnight. We had people come out from word of mouth, from that fantastic article in Encore (thanks Shea!), from the open mics we played – essentially, Saturday night was the way this OUGHT to work. We spend the week wandering a town, spreading the word, playing the open mics, getting press – and then play a kick ass show on the weekend where we Live up to everything as advertised.
Gigs really swing up and down for us, and… what can I say? Good thing we were getting paid at Costello’s. It’s such a weird bar in the first place – we’ve been there three times, and the three experiences have all been totally different. The first time, Annette Warner was running her (now defunct) singer/songwriter open mic. The place was pretty much empty, and Heather and I ended up pretty much playing the whole night to Annette, Deanne, a couple of their quietly watching friends, and George, the owner. The owner Loved us, and asked us to come and play that weekend, and offered us some pretty good money – (Deanne, our favourite agent, went back and got him to offer us more…).
The gig introduced us to Costello’s part 2. Filled with “D.C. gays” who just wanted to watch music videos, we were asked to shut down after about an hour or so because we were just NOT what the flaming doctor ordered. They paid us, and we went on our merry way. Thumping dance music, yelling to be heard over it, and an ass so sore from pinchin – well, that was what left a lasting impression. That was what I warned Sharif and Rowan about, and we were expecting that, in Heather’s words, the “joint” would be “jumpin'”.
Costello’s part 3 had an elderly, very well dressed collection of apparently heterosexual couples asking what covers we knew. Very quiet, but with Celtic music playing over the house system. The night varied with all sorts of different crowds over the course of the night, but we eventually called it a night at around 1am when the attention was far too focused on some baseball game in the back of the bar.
I wonder – my Dad frequently asks if “we’ve ever tried playing different kinds of music”. Specifically, he’ll mention that he really likes some of the covers we do, and that when we break into “Sweet Home Alabama”, he’s like “yeah, stuff like that – that sounded really good”. We have friends who play a lot of covers, and a lot of bars will pay good money for that. You won’t sell any CDs doing it, and you won’t ever get much press being a cover artist, and above all, you certainly won’t be playing you’re own music, but you will make decent money. I frequently wonder if we should be persuing that, making sure that we’ve got a large lexicon of covers in our little skull databases so that we can play those bar scenes and whatnot. I just don’t want to spend too much of my energy doing that, booking it, becoming known for it… and I can all too easily imagine running ourselves into a situation where every week we’re faced with a choice: book an ilyAIMY show at a venue where we need to work to bring people out, where our pay depends on the vaguaries of draw and CD sales… OR book a cover show where the bar is happy enough to hand us a couple hundred dollars if we play four or five hours of classic rock favourites (maybe a bit more if Heather dresses real nice). I can imagine slipping into that as a Lifestyle, and hating it. There seem to be a lot of people “making a Living off of music”… but there aren’t nearly as many making a Living off of THEIR music.